The vision of God seated upon a throne occurs in Ezekiel [Ezekiel, 1], Micah [1 Kings, 22, 19], Isaiah [Isaiah, 6], Daniel [Daniel, 7, 9] and in the Revelations [Apocalypse] of St John [Revelations, 4, 6-7]. Some scholars have claimed that St Paul’s mystical experience of ascent into the ‘multiple heavens’ is on the throne pattern, though this might be a variant on it..
It is easy to misread this kind of visionary experience, because of ‘the nightmare of history’ having too often shown us ‘monarchal power’ as despotic, cruel, unapproachable, arbitrary, violent, oppressive. This throne revelation is not about any of that human abuse. It actually rejects, in a subtle yet very clear sense, any notion of Divine Authority rooted in sheer Divine Power. The throne – kisse in Hebrew – signifies the ‘worthiness’ of God, and of humanity made in God’s ‘likeness.’ This is a very different matter. There is a revelation in this vision of what makes God worthy of love, gratitude, respect, loyalty, from humans, and by implication, this is also a revelation of what makes humanity worthy of love, gratitude, respect, loyalty, from God. There is nothing here of a show of force, an assertion of authority by the fist of power, a veiled threat to obey or else.. There is nothing of Might makes Right.
Ezekiel’s vision moves from the Glory of God to the Daemonic Heart of God, dark, fiery, glowing before its coming..
What is this Glory?
It is like a sunrise where the dark sky suddenly becomes filled with shooting arms of fire which, in turn, give off a marvellous shine, a kind of multi-coloured magnificence which vibrates, pulses, dances. The Glory is an outgoing emanation, from an unknown and mysterious source, and fills everything. It does not remain confined to its originating source, nor hidden in the innermost core, but ‘radiates out’ in an explosion of wonderful things, an abundance of goodness, multiple intelligences and gifts, creative powers.. Glory is inherently generous, sharing itself with anyone and everyone who beholds it, feels it, tastes it; we bathe in it, we bask in it. It opens us up, and transforms us, even as we enjoy it.. It has healing properties as it impacts us. It re-energises us. Witnesses to its dance, we want to join in, and so we dance with it.. Glory excites us, raises us, gets us going with a sense of new possibilities opening up on a horizon not ever farther away but coming closer.
We are at a loss for words when we witness the Glory of a sunrise, so by a small leap of imaginative empathy, consider what Ezekiel experienced when confronting the Glory of the Creator of all that is..
This Glory is from God, and is spread through-out all of nature, inanimate and animate, sentient and intelligent. The creation is built out of, or built in, “an irradiation of God” [Martin Buber, ‘The Way of Man’, 1965, p vi], and therefore the whole cosmos, as well as the earth, “is full of his Glory” [ibid, p 33]. For the Jews, Glory reveals God without ceasing to conceal the Divine Mystery that no creature, no human, can ever penetrate, grasp, know.
Another example would be more human. A heroic human being, who does deeds of great heartedness, also has a shine; a powerful glow emanates from their person. This is the basis for the ‘halo’ in Christian or Buddhist ikons. Everybody, including the animals, perceives this glow, it is unarguable, non-speculative, a matter of direct seeing, if the perceiver’s spiritual eyes are open, and especially if they struggle honestly in the heart. Only people of bad heart fail to see the radiance of heroic, and holy, people that just flows out of them; indeed, in such bad hearted people their vanity is often affronted, and thus they go out of their way to denigrate, disrespect, debunk, the person. They try to convince others, by gossip and behind the back manoeuvres, that the person is really as low down, as without shine, as everyone else..
In human life, Glory gets confused with Reputation, and then we quickly find ourselves far down a deluded road.. Reputation gets confused with Honour, and Honour is confused with an entirely false glory, a kind of Immortality sought by Greek warriors and modern Western celebrities no different. Glory is eternal, but it is only ‘forever’ because it manifests out of something worthy. You cannot sing a mediocre pop song, call it fantastic, in the devalued parlance of the day, and imagine you are rendered ‘one of the Immortals.’ Similarly, you cannot become a pseudo warrior who, divorced from any and all issues of what is worthy in heart, kills thousands of enemies and simply by virtue of that skill, talent, charisma, enters the Legendary Realm above mere ‘mundane’ human beings. What the glory hound, in ancient Greece or the modern West, most fears is being ordinary..
Nothing is more falsified in human life than Glory; its false version drives our pride, vanity, immodesty and self-importance, prickly hostility to criticism, power-mania and power-lust, arrogance, and it creates in every sphere of human culture, be it church, politics, education, or anything else, false hierarchies of empty status and phoney worth: worth rooted in nothing but selfish ambition [the ‘drive to succeed’ so praised in America].
In the Psalms, David calls Glory ‘the Light of God’s Countenance.’ Light, Face, Presence, are all closely linked in David’s Temple mysticism; we go to the Temple, where the Glory resides, to be enlightened by its Light which dispels our profound ignorance; to be healed by its loving kindness poured from the Light as Living Waters; and to know God face to face, personally, to come into God’s presence, experientially. No remote ‘god’, feared and propitiated, can dwell in the real Glory that is of God. The Glory purifies, and cleanses us, of all our fears and phantasies generated by false gods; Glory washes away all our idols and idolatrous wishes..
The Glory dwells in the Temple with special intensity, and untrammelled clarity, because the Temple is the ‘sanctuary’ dedicated to it; the Temple is the Sacred place where the Glory can be ‘at home’, not falsified by the spiritual, psychological, social, political, economic, cultural, distortions and lies of human beings. Obviously, as human error creeps more and more into the Temple, so it ceases to be a Sacred Enclave, a Refuge Set Apart for Glory, where it can be directly encountered. This is why ‘purifying and cleansing’ the Temple is such a vital theme in Jewish religious history. More primitive, and more Satanic, religious corruptions have to be, constantly, purged from the Jewish Temple, if the Glory is really to shine out and enter into each and every person who comes to it in need of its help, in need of its generosity. In Jewish tradition, Sanctuary and Heaven are virtually equated.
But the Glory of God shown to Ezekiel is more specific, it is in a certain form and has a certain purpose, both in regard to its own time and context, and in regard to any time and context which is similar. It comes in a day of trouble, and is not just a metaphysical or philosophical showing forth, or epiphany, of the divine nature. It has a more focused aim than that. Though the Glory certainly shows the being of God, and depicts the nature of God, this ‘likeness’, this ‘appearance’ [as Ezekiel calls it], is more existential in its ‘point.’
None the less, there is no doubt that, as one writer puts it, the prophet who had been expecting to become a priest is shown a ‘form magnificent in character, resplendent with light, which is called the Glory of the Lord.’ And, it is also undeniable that it is this ‘form’ that Daniel describes in his vision, whilst the overwhelming similarities with St John’s vision on Patmos in the Revelations is obvious and significant– though there are key differences as well.. Seven hundred years separates these prophetic experiences of Jewish and Christian prophets. Yet they converge on the same theme.
What is this theme?
There is certainly a blatant revelation of the Glory of God, but perhaps the underlying dynamic of many Daemonic elements points to a more complicated conclusion.. It shows that this Glory emanates from a Core which is Daemonic– and this is what is really at issue.
In a sense, Ezekiel’s vision reveals the Glory of God, reflected in the Sanctuary of Heaven, and mirrored in the Temple of the Earth. But that is static. A much more dynamic meaning, which is Daemonic, inheres this encounter..
This vision is to do with what makes God worthy to humanity, and what makes humanity worthy to God. This is not Glory. It is the Daemonic heart of God, and the heart wounded and rendered Daemonic in humanity, that is worthy. The Glory radiates that Worthiness of heart.
Glory reveals the hidden fatherhood of God, showing his ‘heart’ towards humanity, and his heart in humanity that we lose and regain.
The vision itself needs to be briefly sketched. It is complicated, and not easy to picture in precise detail, though countless illustrations of it have been made by artists down the centuries. Religious commentaries on it abound, including books and books just devoted to the vision’s complex, and rich, symbolism. [The 4-foldness of the created realm, and the 7-foldness of the spirit realm, are among many symbolic meanings inhering in the vision’s fabulous sacred architecture.]
The vision comes in a Whirlwind from the north. The prophet receiving it is in the south.
Then there is ‘a great cloud’, with ‘a fire infolding itself’ within the cloud, and the cloud is lit up, ‘there was a brightness about it.’ The fire within the cloud is the colour of amber — a colour that mixes red fire and brown earth with a golden glistening — and ‘out of the midst of the fire’ come ‘the likeness of 4 living creatures’.. These 4 strange creatures, which are 4 spirits, are not initially named by Ezekiel but later he recognises them as 4 Cherubim [Ezekiel, 10, 20]. These spirit beings are 4-fold, with 4 faces and 4 wings. The 4 faces of each angel are those of a man, an ox [bull], an eagle, a lion. The four faces ‘face’ in the 4 directions of the 4 quadrants of the creation: the man facing south, the ox [bull] facing west, the eagle facing north, the lion facing east. The 4 quadrants, as in the Sacred Circle of Shamanism, have a host of further analogous correspondences: man is south, water, summer and mid-day; ox [bull] is west, earth, autumn and evening; eagle is north, air, winter and night; lion is east, fire, spring and dawn.
The 4 Cherubim are inter-woven as one, ‘for their wings were joined one to another’ [Ezekiel, 1, 9]. They are four, but this four-foldness admits no fragmentation, no separation, no division, because it is a unity in diversity.
A Spirit animates the 4 Cherubim, going ‘up and down the living creatures’ like a Rushing Wind. The 4 spirits are torches of fire [‘burning coals’ that become ‘bright lamps’], and the lightning continues to flash, and thunder rolls, from out of the fire.. The prophet hears a ‘great noise’ – which always accompanies the momentous revelations of God — and this rolling thunder is the Voice of God, the speaking of God [Ezekiel, I, 24]. But the prophet also hears in the moving of the 4 creatures’ wings ‘the noise of many waters’– the many human voices of the prophets conveying what God declares, and the many human witnesses to the stream of revelation, like a powerful river running underground and occasionally breaking out to crash through artificial human dams, boundaries, and restrictions.
Beneath the 4 Cherubim, or perhaps more accurately next to them, or even interwoven with them, are whirling circular wheels, ‘wheels within wheels’, all in motion, turning, revolving. The wheels make the 4 Cherubim move over the earth, and through the world. There are many eyes on the wheels. They see where they are going, and how they are going.
One writer speaks of the wheels as like the reverberations of a bell, pealing to summon all those who want to know God.
Above the 4 Cherubim is a ‘firmament’ made of transparent crystal; in St John’s Revelations, this crystal seen beneath the throne of God is a ‘sea of glass.’
Upon the firmament is a throne made of blue sapphire.
Jewish tradition identifies the firmament’s transparent crystal more with the sky that forms a containing vault over the earth, while the throne’s blue sapphire is identified more with the mysterious domain of shooting stars and darker reaches of far space; in effect, the deep blue almost black is the Heaven above and beyond the sky.
Seated upon the ‘likeness’ of the throne is the ‘likeness’ of a man. From the waist up, he is golden; from the waist down, he is fire. Brilliant light shines from him, he radiates a ‘brilliant magnificence.’ Many lights and many colours, as in a rainbow, shine forth from him.
For Ezekiel, this is “the appearance of the likeness of the Glory of Yahweh” [Ezekiel, 1, 28]. For Jews, this likeness to a man is either Yahweh himself, or his Glory; both interpretations co-exist in Jewish tradition. Ezekiel makes no comment on why the Glory should be ‘like’ a human being.
Yahweh enthroned over the Cherubim is similar to the ‘Mercy Seat’, flanked by two Cherubim, from which Yahweh speaks to Moses. But this means that this vision portrays the ‘form’ in which God gives his word, the throne is not about Divine Majesty giving orders but is about Divine Humanity making vows.
For Jews, the likeness to a man enthroned upon the Cherubim is Yahweh, the God of the promise. For Christians, it is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the fulfilment of the promise.
As with the 4 Cherubim below him, the ‘brightness’ of the man enthroned on them comes from ‘fire.’ There is no doubt that the Glory – kavod in Hebrew – is the energetic radiance of the Daemonic. But the Daemonic does not radiate simply because it is powerful. It radiates from its Heart, because the Daemonic Heart is worthy; worthy of the greatness and depth of God, worthy of the greatness and depth of humanity.
In the whirlwind, and the cloud, is the Holy Fire of God’s Heart, and indwelling it are burning coals that are lamps: in reality, it is a ‘glowing torch’ that the prophet will take back to his people to encourage and renew them in their captivity.
It is interesting that Lucifer, the primary evil spirit, began as a 4-fold Cherubim; he was the chief of all the 4-fold spirits, a being of beauty and wisdom who once ‘walked among the coals of holy fire’ before he was cast down from heaven. As he falls, he becomes a shooting star, confused with real Glory yet fizzing out. Then, once he crashes to earth, he becomes Satan, the Accuser of humanity.
Lucifer and Satan are really like heads and tails of the same coin, or could be seen more straightforwardly as akin to twin brothers in crime, each ‘handling’ the opposite end of the total human situation.
Lucifer ‘the morning star’ is the very paradigm of the false glory on which humans get hooked. He had been created to be the chief protector of the earth. All the Cherubim are protective of the earthly, the created, yet Lucifer betrays this role as beneath his dignity, it is too lowly for his exalted being. Lesser creatures are to look up at him, admire his perfectly rounded completeness, learn from his nature [imitation is the sincerest form of flattery], but putting himself out for another, losing any of his riches for the other’s gain, is an insult. He is a ‘cold star’, disdaining all upon whom he shines. They should be grateful for any reflected glory..
‘Lucifer’ means Light Bringer: he is the false sage who inspires false enlightenment, and infects even true enlightenment [as the Buddhists are well aware]. Among humans, he sows rivalry, comparison, dissension, jealousy, envy, which destroys any possibility of communal solidarity and pulling together. His game is to flatter to deceive, to flatter to seduce. He insinuates his spirit into creative and intelligent people, especially, as the dull clods of ordinary humanity hold no interest for a being so ‘rich.’ Lucifer promotes monetary and cultural richness, in order to favour a sparkling few and dismiss the ‘mass’ of mundane people. He insinuates his spirit into talent and giftedness, cleverness and intelligence.
His ‘higher spirituality’ — only for the rare souls exalted enough to become who and what they were always intended to be — is ‘spiritual narcissism’; he pollutes the true Eros, which makes both identity and sexual experience ‘ecstatic’, overflowing, self-transcending. He makes humans self-loving, and so in his grip we use other people, consume them, spit them out. Fidelity in sexual, financial, artistic, intellectual, dealings is impossible to the Lucifer spirit.. We devour the riches of existence, visible and invisible, physical and spiritual, monetary and cultural, to infinitely expand the selfhood. This ‘Self’ is like a cold and empty diamond that never bleeds for another being, person, creature..
Martin Buber= “..love without dialogic, without real outgoing to the other, and companying with the other, the love remaining with itself– this is Lucifer” [‘Between Man and Man’, p 24]. Lucifer was ‘thrown into the sea’ after his rocket fizzled out in the sky; thus, even when he is expelled from the sky of visionary mysticism, he sneaks off and turns up somewhere else even more effective: the unconscious, the soul, is where he lurks, ready to spoil the ecstatic Eros at its root, and infect it with the poison of infinite ‘polishing’ of the treasure buried in the psychic deeps.
The psyche, and its imagery, is Lucifer’s last refuge. This is why Martin Buber was right to say it is dangerously in error to ‘divinise the soul without first sanctifying it.’
There is a treasure buried inside humanity, but Lucifer’s way of seeking it twists and ruins it.
As the matrix of spiritual evil comes from the Cherubim, we might conclude evil has 4 faces, and this seems to be so: Lucifer [delusive spiritual inflation], Satan [self-righteous religious accusation], Mephistopheles [dehumanised mental abstraction], Mammon [the love of money that is the root of all human sins].
When Ezekiel receives the vision that comes to him whirling out of the north, he throws himself to the ground, face down. He is simply totally overcome by the Glory of God. You cannot stand in its living presence because this reveals to you it is and you are not. But, a voice tells Ezekiel to stand up. The Spirit of God enters him, raising him to his feet. One commentator says that in being helped by God to ‘stand before’ this fullness, abundance, of Being, Ezekiel is really preparing to ‘stand for’ God in the world.
To stand up for God, we have to stand on God. The creature’s ‘basic’ non-being needs to be upheld by God’s Abyss of Being, for us to risk our life for love, truth, justice, mercy, redemption..
Jewish tradition more usually regards the throne as a Chariot – merkavah in Hebrew — because of the fact that the throne is not above and beyond the creation, nor is it in repose and static. Though coming from above and beyond all that exists, it is descending below, moving over the earth, and entering human affairs, history, time, matter and space, thanks to the 4 angels and the many wheels on which they are rolling ahead. In effect, this Mysterious Reality is headed for all the 4 directions of the Sacred Circle, south, west, north, east. The throne is ‘supported’ by the chariot, it might be said; but more accurately, the throne ‘rides’ the chariot into the creation, to effect changes. Glorious things are coming to the world, this vision really says. Though much tribulation will precede this event.
God calls Ezekiel ‘Son of Man’ nearly 100 times. Jesus Christ calls himself ‘The Son of Man’ 88 times in the Gospels. This vision, whatever it means, is addressed to humanity in a time of peril and heartbreak, and tells them not to give up or give in, and that the Real God, in his Glorious Manifestation, is on the move, is rolling. Get ready for the ride!
The Highest God, higher than the heavens, is coming down, and entering in.
This is Good News..
Rivka G. Horwitz [in the Encyclopaedia Judaica], points out that Maimonides [in chapter 9 of the first part of his ‘Guide For The Perplexed’] gives the throne two meanings:
 According to the first interpretation, the ‘throne’ in Biblical usage refers to the sanctuary or the heavens, which are called throne because the grandeur of God manifested itself in these places, and His light and glory descended there. The Biblical verse “the heaven is my throne” is interpreted by Maimonides as “the heaven indicates my existence, grandeur, and power”: just as a throne indicates the greatness of the individual who is considered worthy of it, so the heavens indicate the existence and grandeur of God.
In another similar passage, Maimonides identifies the throne with the aravot upon which God is said to ride. The aravot, according to him, are identical with the all-encompassing celestial sphere, and God’s ‘riding’ upon it is interpreted to mean that He exists beyond it and in separation from it [Guide, 1:70]. Maimonides ..does not relate the throne to the essence of God, but places the visionary chariot on the level of the separate [angelic, or spiritual] intelligences.
Thus Ezekiel’s vision, according to Maimonides, is an apprehension of the Glory of God [not of God Himself], of the angels, and the separate intelligences – “the chariot and not the rider.”
 According to the second interpretation, the throne is an allusion to God Himself. For example, when Moses swore “Hand upon the throne of the Lord” [Exodus, 17:16], he swore by God Himself. Pointing out that the throne should not be imagined as a thing outside God’s essence or as a created being, Maimonides maintains that the throne signifies God’s essence.
Two rabbis, three opinions..
 First Commentary
The heavens are above the sky realm, though in another sense, they are an extension of it, its higher reaches. The sky, or celestial realm, is more akin to the firmament of crystal, the sea of glass. The throne reveals there is a spiritual domain above the sky, above the celestial. The celestial stands in necessary binary coupling with the terrestrial: sky and earth are a primary pair, a primal father and mother [like air and water; or like sun and moon]. But, the heavens that directly ‘reflect’ the Glory of God are still higher. The sky is a transition point, a portal, into the heavenly.
Jewish Tradition often describes the heavens as themselves 7 fold, meaning 7 domains as you ascend, each one higher than the previous because of coming ever closer to God. Each domain has ‘many mansions’, its own inherent variety and diversity and complex design. Higher than the heavens, yet near to them, is God qua God, the Divine Mystery in and of itself, at source. Many mystics assert that God is the Divine Darkness, because the Reality of God cannot be captured in any created form, nor even fully exhausted in its own magnificent manifestation. This was articulated among the Greek Fathers of Eastern Christianity in their teaching that nothing created can ever know the Uncreated Creator, in and of its own being; thus they distinguish between the Essence of God, beyond form or no form, and the Energies of God which disclose and pour out the Divine Reality by an ecstatic movement whereby the divine moves ‘out’ of itself towards the creature and the creation, revealing both parties to one another [no revelation is of God alone, all revelation is of humanity as well].
Since God creates everything in, and by, the Energies, everything is made ‘user friendly’ to the Energies. We are transparent, open, permeable, to their in-coming. Shamanism demonstrates that plentifully, on many levels.
Thus, the throne as chariot is at the centre of the Divine Energies, their central nexus, their point of orchestration and point of intention.
The first interpretation of Ezekiel’s vision in Jewish Tradition seems to suggest that ‘heaven’, or the ‘heavenly’, is to be associated with the Glory of God, the brilliant ‘gleaming’ of the Divine Mystery which is beyond it, yet out of which it comes. Heaven, as the ‘sanctuary’ of the Glory, is thus the place where we are wholly immersed in the Energies that overflow out of God.
The key to differentiating the throne as such from God is understood in its real meaning by Maimonides when he says, “the heaven indicates [God’s] existence, grandeur, and power: just as a throne indicates the greatness of the [person] who is considered worthy of it, so the heavens indicate the existence and grandeur of God.”
The ‘Glory as throne’ indicates not simply the kingship, but the worthiness, of the heart that rules everything. That heart, even if only symbolically indicated by the throne, is present. It is symbolised more fully by the ‘man’ seated upon the throne of God. This is the real mysteriousness in this vision.
Who is worthy? That is mysterious, but even more surprising is: What is worthy?
 Second Commentary
The first interpretation of Ezekiel’s vision in Jewish Tradition is ‘apophatic’, drawing a line between God and his Throne-Chariot, refusing to equate the Rider and his Rolling Vehicle.
The second interpretation blurs that line, in order to place the Rider in his Chariot. This is important. The apophatic approach is necessary, to stop people thinking they can take hold of God, know him, and the next minute, appropriate him to their limited and destructive aims.
However, even at the risk of theological error, there is something of the Essence ‘in’ the Energies. What is this? God’s Heart. God is Love, not just: God is loving. Thus, the Energies are loving because the Essence is Love. God has a heart, and though we cannot capture it in its own mysterious reality, never the less, it is what comes out of the Divine Transcendence as the Imminence that meets us. It is God’s heart that is the Rider in the Chariot. He does not rule over us, remotely and statically; he seeks to rule our heart, intimately and dynamically.
There is a sense in which Ezekiel did not just see the Chariot, without the Rider. He saw the Vehicle and the Rider moving it. He saw what moves the dynamism entering the world, entering the human heart. He saw the heart of God, golden in worth in the upper half of the body, and driven and animated by fire in the lower half of the body.
He saw that God’s heart is, inexplicably, in the likeness of, or like the human.
It is not given in the vision exactly who this ‘likeness to a man’ actually is. He could be taken, even in purely Jewish terms, as the coming Messiah. For Christians he prefigures the Messiah who has come in Yeshua. Thus he is, if we can look back to the Old Testament from the New Testament, Jesus Christ. The Greek Fathers always claimed that, the New Testament is concealed in the Old Testament, while the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament.
Yet the mystery remains. Why would God’s worthiness of heart be ‘like a man’, like a human being? Must not God be far above humanity? He is too exalted for us, as heaven is exalted beyond the earth and the sky.. Yet, there is another side to this mystery. In the heart of God is humanity. Why is this? How can it be?
Identifying the seated figure on the throne with any exactitude is missing the whole point.
He is a likeness to a man because, precisely as God, he is human, humane, God is the model of the human.
If we lose our likeness to God, we cease being human.
But this also means, it is God who is like humanity.
This is the great and deep mystery: God is more human than we are; when we depart from God, we become sub human, inhumane, anti-human, in all we are and all we do.
Thus, coming at an epic low moment in Jewish history, this vision depicts God’s promise to restore the human image to its God-likeness.
This restoration is key to the New Covenant arising during the Babylonian Exile: a new heart is coming, a new relationship with the Spirit in that heart, is coming, through the Messiah.
This is why the highest in Ezekiel’s vision, enthroned above everything yet with its chariot of wheels, rushing on the wind with torches of fire and flashes of lightning, moving into everything, is in the likeness of a man. Not God per se, but the divine-human mystery of God’s heart planted and kindled in the human heart, is enthroned as the most worthy, and is given an engine of wind, fire, thunder, to carry it into the suffering heart of the world.
Berdyaev says that in this world “love admits no careful ordering: it is subject to no norms.” Love is tragic: “Love means failure in this world rather than the well-ordered life” [DA Lowrie, 1965, p 94]. The throne-chariot bears, carries, the only Love Supreme that can engage our human tragedy of love.
The Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor confirms the Daemonic significance of the throne that is really a chariot.
Christ takes Peter, James, and John, up the mountain to pray [Luke, 9, 28-36]. “And as he prayed, ..his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistening.” The Glory of God bursts out of Christ, revealing the divinity latent in his humanity. Moses and Elijah appear in this Glory with Christ, and speak of his coming death in Jerusalem. The disciples had been asleep as Christ began to pray, but waking up, they see the Glory, and the two Jewish prophets, and they throw themselves face down in the dust, as Ezekiel had done.
When the Glory departs, Peter suggests to Christ they should build three tabernacles in this place, one for Moses, one for Elijah, one for him. As Peter is speaking, a cloud overshadows the small group and silences him, for he is making a huge mistake without realising it.. Out of the cloud comes a voice, declaring, ‘This is my beloved son, hear him.’
Christ rejects Peter’s pious instinct to turn this place where the Glory of God has appeared into yet another sanctuary, still another temple. Such a reaction misunderstands this mysterious event, fundamentally.
That Moses and Elijah speak of Christ’s imminent ‘ultimate sacrifice’ in Jerusalem is Daemonic.
Equally Daemonic is the significance of just these two prophets joining Christ in the Glory.
Moses represents the more static and temple oriented meaning of Glory, for the Law was given to him in the context of creating a Temple to house it. Moses is facilitating a crucial transition wherein the Glory comes down from the mountain, and dwells in the temple among the people. Henceforth, the Glory will be in the very midst of the people, not high above them.
But Elijah, who did not die the usual human death and was taken up in a fiery chariot, arguably the first human to become ‘all fire’, signifies the more dynamic and world oriented meaning of Glory as the Sign that the throne-chariot is ‘on the move’ for the sake of a desolate and imprisoned humanity.
For, when Christ says No to the building of any religious shrine to mark his Transfiguration, he is unequivocally making clear that this showing forth of divinity is not to be linked back to Moses and the creation of a sanctuary for Glory.
Rather, it is to be linked back to Elijah and the coming ordeal and battle to kindle Fire in the world.
The Daemonic God is holy and terrible, innocent and undefended, at once. He is Tyger and Lamb, Father and Child, at once; he is the Monster of the Spirit whose heart-beat is the pulse, the roaring voice, the rolling wave, underneath everything, yet he is the Childlike Exuberance whose unguarded eyes with nothing behind them look straight out on everything created and smile, finding it good, beholding its beauty, won by its fragility. Somehow, in a manner for which there are no adequate words, his own heart is the prototype of the human heart. At our most ‘human’, we contain the paradox of God.
This is why we cannot be complete on our own, without God. We fall apart, unable to sustain the paradox of our humanity. We lose our humanity.
God loves our humanity, it is a likeness to him, not so he can know himself, for that is unnecessary, but so he can have a partner in the paradox, a beloved who shares its contradiction.
This is also why God favours very struggling, turbulent, tortured, people, more than the self-disciplined people. Yes, he had to give us a Limit, a Law, to contain our excesses, before they get transmuted and transformed, but God loves those who try to love, even if — as is inevitable — they fail. These struggling lovers are closer to the heart in which God and humanity mysteriously coinhere.
God says David is “a man after his own heart” [1 Samuel,13, 14; Acts,13, 33]. David is a serious sinner, but he is also one of those who ‘love much and are forgiven much’, hence his heart is closer to God’s heart than Moses’ rigidly lawful uprightness, whose impatience with anyone who falls from that high standard reveals it does not look into the heart. Only two kings — in the whole two thousand year history of the Jews before they were expelled from Palestine by the Romans — were ‘anointed’ by God’s Spirit: David, and the Messiah.
David should be studied, and delved, for what in his heart God finds pliable, and can be worked with: another Tyger reversed by a Lamb, another Lamb reversed by a Tyger. Another lover who is just and merciful, fierce and tender, at once.
For those who can take a hint, this should be sufficient. For those who need a word of advice, it can be spelled out: approach God through the heart. Learn what that means, and does not mean. Make your stand on that.
Humanity was created to bear and carry a heart like God’s; but God, strangely, and terrifyingly, already has a heart like ours, a heart human, humane, full of ‘humanity’ for the suffering of the world.
When we realise this, it is not so shocking that, when asked about Yahweh, Yeshua said, ‘if you look at me you will see him.’
Be like God, and ‘look at the heart.’
In humanity, look at the heart of God. In God, look at the heart of humanity. In every person you meet, whatever the Blakean ‘marks of weakness, marks of woe’, look for and find the heart hidden beneath that. Look deeper..
The ontological distinction between Uncreated and created is perfectly true. But God takes the initiative and goes beyond it, making his heart the furnace, and anvil, upon which he forges the heart of humanity.
The terrible and holy fire weeps and bleeds. It understands what it asks from us, and willingly it gives what we need to trust this.
The Glory of God hints at completion, what can be enjoyed by all when all the travail is done.
Yet, by revealing the Beautiful and Brilliant Light as itself the emanation of a Golden Fire, with the Daemonic power of the rushing, the burning, the thundering, that carries it downward and into the very thick of things, this vision actually reveals that without the ‘intervention’ of the Daemonic, with the strife and striving, the grief and grieving, the change and movement, it brings, the Glory would remain inaccessible to us.
The golden and fiery heart of God, coming to the broken heart of humanity, is more ultimate than the Divine Glory everyone wants to bask and bathe in.
Only through the former coming to us will we humans come to the latter.
For in human existence, and especially in its depth, the Daemonic has no Glory.
Only the height has Glory. To enter the depth, God must be stripped and deprived of the Glorious and Marvellous and Radiant.
God enters, naked, the abyss, to find us where we are naked, raw, ugly.
This mystery of God’s ultimate descent, having to lose what we have lost to restore it to us, is what is prefigured in Ezekiel’s vision.
This is what is enthroned as worthy, and this is what is in a living chariot, driven by wheels of eyes, not ‘coming to a theatre near you soon’, but crashing right into your existence, to drag you down to where you are broken, by itself accepting breaking.
In the highest heavens, the golden and fiery heart of the Daemonic has Glory. Its worth is ‘self-evident’, and experienced by all who meet it face to face, and come into its presence.
In the depth, in the abyss, there is only the golden and fiery heart, stripped of all Glory, fighting raw, naked, ugly. It has to become like that, it has to fight like that, to reach us, and restore us, where we are utterly ruined, and inglorious in our end.
It is the end to us.
The Daemonic, stripped of everything except its heart, shares our inglorious end to give us a second chance, and raise us to a new Glory, shared with God and us, as both the divine and human hearts are ‘vindicated’ in the end.
This is what St John’s vision in the Revelations shows, that Ezekiel’s vision does not.
Ezekiel: where the second chance starts. St John: where the second roll of the rushing wind, the burning, the lightning, the thundering, culminates.
In St John’s vision, the Lamb Slain Before the World Began is on the throne, and he alone is worthy to open the seven sealed scrolls that herald the final journey, the last fight, that will bring victory in the end.
Who or what is worthy? God is not worthy because of having the Ultimate Power. So what? God is worthy because of how he abases that power for the sake of humanity.
God is worthy because he has a heart, a heart like ours, a human heart, passionate and vulnerable at once, full of tears and on fire at once.
It is so. Let it be so..