Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Note: Dark Mirrors by Andrei A. Orlov

Andrei Orlov presents us with a new book on a wicked subject: the origins and development of the demons Azazel and Satanael in early Judaism and Christianity. 

I remember when, a few years ago, Professor Orlov was working on the temptation narratives in the gospels and presented a paper in the New Testament Mysticism Project on Satan.  He noted that the narrative of Satan was an upside down version of patterns of ascent of heroes in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  I recall how this insight was met with enthusiasm among the group, and it appears to have become the impetus for Professor Orlov to explore this symmetry more fully.  Now he gives us the results of that exploration in a wonderful book just published by SUNY.  It is called Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology

The book takes up the correspondence of inverse symmetry, when the antagonist or protagonist of the story takes the place of his opponent by acquiring peculiar attributes and conditions of his counterpart. He notes that in the Book of the Watchers, the fallen angels and the hero Enoch mirror each other in the exchange of offices, roles, attributes, and even wardrobes (5).  Professor Orlov traces this pattern in two traditions, one involving Satan as the source of evil, the other Azazel.  His study plays close attention to the sacerdotal dimension of this demonology, showing that the peculiar transformations of the adversaries have cultic signficance within the liturgical settings of the Jewish tradition (7).

The book is written along these chapter lines:
1: "The Likeness of Heaven": Kavod of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham
2: Eschatological Yom Kippur in the Apocalypse of Abraham: The Scapegoat Ritual
3: The Garment of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham
4: The Watchers of Satanael: The Fallen Angels Traditions in 2 Slavonic Enoch
5: Satan and the Visionary: Apocalyptic Roles of the Adversary in the Temptation Narrative of the Gospel of Matthew
6: The Flooded Arboretums: The Garden Traditions in the Slavonic Version of 3 Baruch and the Book of Giants
It is wonderful to see this book come into being from its glowing inception during our seminar to its book form.  And wow! SUNY finally made a gorgeous cover.

I leave you with a verse that opens his book, which leaves me to ponder the power of the deep and dark which the Gnostics I study also knew:

Come and see: There are chariots of the left in the mystery of the Other Side and chariots of the right in the mystery of the supernal Holiness, and they match one another...(Zohar I.211b).