22. The Vision of Sinai

A dark mass of granite stands so bare beneath the splendor of the sun that one would think it had been furrowed by lightning and carved by thunder. "This is the summit of Sinai, the Throne of Elohim," say the children of the desert. Facing it is a lower mountain, the rocks of Serbal, also steep and wild. In its sides are copper mines and caverns. Between the two mountains is a dark valley, a chaos of rocks which the Arabs call Horeb, the Ereb of Semitic legend. This valley of desolation is gloomy indeed when night falls upon it along with the shadow of Sinai. It is even more gloomy when the mountain is crowned with a mantle of clouds, from which sinister flashes of light dart forth. Then a terrible wind blows down the narrow valley. It is said that here Elohim overthrows those who try to fight Him, casting them into the abyss where torrents of rain pour. The Midianites say that here wander the evil ghosts of giants, the Refaim, tumbling the rocks upon those who try to climb the sacred cliffs. Popular tradition still has it that sometimes in the flashing fire the God of Sinai appears in the form of a Medusa head with eagle's wings. Woe to those who see His face! To see Him is to die!

This is what the nomads related in the evening, sitting in their tents, when the camels and the women were asleep. In reality only the boldest of Jethro's initiates climbed to the cavern of Serval and spent several days there in fasting and prayer. It was a place dedicated from time immemorial to supernatural visions, to Elohim, or to luminous spirits. No priest, no hunter would have consented to lead a pilgrim there.

Fearlessly Moses had climbed up past the ravine of Horeb. Courageously he had crossed the valley of death with its chaos of rocks. Like every human effort, initiation has its phases of humility and pride. In climbing the mountain Moses had reached the summit of pride, for he was approaching the summit of human power. Already he felt himself at one with the Supreme Being. The burning red sun hung low over the volcanic massive form of Sinai and purple shadows were lying in the valleys below, when Moses found himself before a cavern where a few terebinths protected the entrance. He prepared to enter, but suddenly he was blinded by a light which enveloped him. It seemed to him that the sun burned about him, that the granite mountains had changed into a sea of flames.

At the entrance to the grotto a blinding light shone upon him. An angel with drawn sword blocked his way. Thunderstruck, Moses fell prone upon the ground. All his pride had been broken. The angel's gaze had pierced him with its light. And then, with that deep sense of things which is awakened in the visionary state, he understood that this being was about to impose serious tasks upon him. He would have liked to escape his mission and creep into the earth like a miserable worm.

But a voice said, "Moses! Moses!" And he answered: "Here am I."

"Come no closer; take off your shoes. For the place where you are standing is holy ground!"

Moses hid his face in his hands. He was afraid to look at the angel again, to face his gaze.

And the angel said to him, "You who seek Elohim, why do you tremble before me?"

"Who are you?"

"A ray of Elohim, a solar angel, a messenger of the One Who is and Who will be."

"What do you command?"

"You shall say to the children of Israel: The Everlasting, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob sent me to you, to lead you out of the land of slavery."

"Who am I," asked Moses, "that I should lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt?"

"Go," said the angel, "for I shall be with you. I shall put the fire of Elohim in your heart, and His word upon your lips. For forty years you have been calling upon Him. Your voice has reached Him. Here I seize you in his name! Son of Elohim, you belong to me forever!"

And Moses cried out boldly, "Show me Elohim, that I may see His living fire!"

He raised his head. But the sea of flames had vanished; the angel had fled like lightning. The sun had descended upon the extinguished volcanoes of Sinai; a silence of death spread over the vale of Horeb, and a voice which seemed to roll in the blue, losing itself in infinity, said: "I am, that I am!"

Moses came out of this vision as though dumbfounded. He thought for a moment that his body had been consumed by the fire of ether. But his spirit was stronger. When he went down to Jethro's temple again, he was ready for his task. His living idea walked before him like the angel, armed with the sword of fire.


23. Exodus: Magic and Theurgy

The Great Initiates