Friday, August 18, 2017


First posted on Dec. 3, 2011.

Deuteronomy 32
[48] And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying,
[49] Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession:
[50] And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people:
[51] Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.
[52] Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel.

Representing a stage in the psychic/spiritual development of mankind, Moses gains dominance and then fades as he is replaced by the next stage. The death of Moses represents a transition in psychic/spiritual development. Moses brought release from bondage to Druiadic thought, he introduced a covenant with God based on a code of conduct, he brought his people to the verge of the Promised Land. The land of Promise, however, turned out to be not Eden (the realization of Eternity) but Canaan (a degraded materialism.)

[9] Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil
he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a
railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

Michael and Satan struggled not over Moses but over the body of Moses. The body of work which remained from the life of Moses became the material from which further prophecy would evolve. Michael would direct Moses' work toward the realization which would take place through Jesus; Satan would direct his work toward another bondage of struggle for religious repression, political dominance, and isolation from individual consciousness of the God within.

The struggle between wrath and pity was not resolved in Moses or through Moses. Blake used the Bard's Song in Milton to exemplify the struggle between wrath and pity which remained to be solved by prophetic vision. The soul of man was/is divided by pity (which tolerates weakness) thereby being incompatible with wrath (which is moved to destroy failure.) The contraries take many forms. The work in Los' furnaces is the repeated resolution of the dichotomies as they appear in multiple forms as an individual travels through states or as societies travel through the Eyes of God.

Blake means for us to get an impression of struggle between Michael and Satan in this passage from the Bard's Song in Milton. Various qualities and behaviors appear in each character but nevertheless we can see wrath and pity contending, being split apart and being sent back to fight another round.

Milton, Plate 8, (E 102)
"They Plow'd in tears! incessant pourd Jehovahs rain, & Molechs
Thick fires contending with the rain, thunder'd above rolling
Terrible over their heads; Satan wept over Palamabron
Theotormon & Bromion contended on the side of Satan
Pitying his youth and beauty; trembling at eternal death:
Michael contended against Satan in the rolling thunder
Thulloh the friend of Satan also reprovd him; faint their

But Rintrah who is of the reprobate: of those form'd to destruction
In indignation. for Satans soft dissimulation of friendship!
Flam'd above all the plowed furrows, angry red and furious,
Michael sat down in the furrow weary dissolv'd in tears
Satan who drave the team beside him, stood angry & red
He smote Thulloh & slew him, & he stood terrible over Michael
Urging him to arise: he wept! Enitharmon saw his tears
But Los hid Thulloh from her sight, lest she should die of grief
She wept: she trembled! she kissed Satan; she wept over Michael
She form'd a Space for Satan & Michael & for the poor infected.
Trembling she wept over the Space, & clos'd it with a tender Moon

Los secret buried Thulloh, weeping disconsolate over the moony Space" 

Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
The Devil Rebuked (The Burial of Moses) 
c. 1805
Complete text of Plate 8 of Milton from the Blake Archive.

Image in the Blake Archive (click to enlarge for detail)

Here is more on the difficult transition to higher consciousness represented by the struggle between Michael and Satan from Fearful Symmetry by Northrop Frye:
Page 366
"Canaan, therefore, is Egypt all over again, and the crossing of the Jordan is entry into Egypt or Ulro, the mundane shell or cave of the mind. The Jordan is in the Bible more or less what the Styx or Lethe is in Classical Mythology. The fact that Moses never entered Canaan thus has a twofold significance. His death outside the Promised Land means that what he represents, the spirit of the Hebrew law or vision of Jehovah, was not good enough; but his death outside of the fallen Canaan means that he was redeemed and not rejected by Jesus, which is why he appears with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration."
Page 391
"The Biblical symbolism in which the crisis of vision is presented centers on the figure of Moses. Moses is the Hebrew historical cycle which began as Orc in Egypt, attained its vision of Jehovah, and ran its natural course. When Moses comes within sight of the Promised Land he represents Hebrew culture at a crisis corresponding to that of Deism. This is later referred to as a dispute between Michael, the guardian angel of Israel, and Satan over Moses' body. Satan was trying to drag him into the fallen Canaan; Michael was trying to take him to the real Promised Land, the Eden where Elijah, according to the old tradition, also awaits the apocalypse. Both sides won, and separated Hebrew civilization into the literal law of the Pharisees and the letter of the law spiritualized by Jesus."

Blake characterized the periods through man travels in his evolution as the Eyes of God.


ellie said...

I republished this post because came to mind when I was watching news about the US president. Michael and Satan, pity and wrath, the spirit and the law, are struggling over his body each day very publicaly for all to see. The outcome of this particular battle has not been determined. Nor has the battle in each heart between forgiveness and vengeance reached a conclusion.

Susan J. said...

wow - thanks so much for your comment, Ellie. This makes so much sense.

I had forgotten or did not know that verse from Jude - sometime I'd like to look into the biblical context further - Michael is a fascinating character about whom I know little...

The battle in each heart between forgiveness and vengeance, indeed.

Grace and peace and love and joy to you, my dear friend ---