Raziel is an Archangel who plays a big role in kabbalistic teachings. His name רזיאל means ‘secret of God’, and he is called the ‘keeper of secrets’ or the ‘angel of mysteries’. He is often depicted holding a key, as in this painting (1650) by a little known Spanish painter, Francisco de Zurbaran. Apart from the key in Raziel’s right hand, there is very little here to suggest the magic and excitement a mystic is likely to experience when they meet Raziel, whose divine emanation is electric to say the least! Take a look at an image based on my own encounter, which happened in the 1980’s when I was undertaking a series of inner journeys to meet the Archangels of the Tree of Life:
Raziel stands on a rock, close to the Divine Throne at Keter, the Crown of the Tree. A Holy Curtain, like a veil, conceals the Divine Throne, but Raziel is instructed by the invisible power that runs the universe to impart wisdom to humans – and to other angels. So Raziel can be associated with Hochma (Wisdom), the second sefira on the Tree of Life – next down from the Crown. He is also known as Gallizur – revealer of the rock – which is why the esoteric group in The Angel of Secrets, who are researching into the lost Book of Raziel, have adopted Gallizur as their name. (‘Zur’ is Hebrew for rock.)
The Sefer Raziel ha’Malakh (‘Book of Raziel the Angel’) is attributed to this Archangel and is said to contain all secret knowledge, as well as being considered a book of magic. This book claims a provenance going back to Adam, although scholars consider this is a mediaeval work and it cannot be shown to predate the 13th century. However, it is acknowledged that some parts may to date back to late antiquity. Sefer Raziel ha’Malakh was printed for the first time in Hebrew in 1701 and Steve Savedow translated it into English in 2000.
Another related text is the Sefer ha’Razim, discovered in the 20th century by Mordecai Margalioth, a Jewish scholar visiting Oxford in 1963, when he was researching fragments found in the Cairo Geniza. (Check Wikipedia for the fascinating story behind this find). Margalioth places this text to the early 4th or late 3rd century CE, which would mean it predates most kabbalistic texts, including The Zohar (13th century), The Bahir (13th century), and possibly even the Sefer Yetzirah (the dating of which is still debated). The most likely story is that Sefer Raziel ha’Malakh has lifted sections from Sefer ha’Razim – which, legend says, contains the wisdom delivered by the Archangel. This wisdom was said to have been originally delivered on tablets of ‘sapphire’. It is important to remember that, in biblical times, ‘sapphire’ included all crystals, not just the blue jewel we think of today, But, in The Angel of Secrets, sapphire is described as a blue stone.
The Erelim אֶרְאֵלִים (plural for Erel אֶרְאֵל) are Raziel’s ‘hosts’. According to Moses Maimonides, the 12th-century Jewish philosopher, Raziel is in charge of these ‘valiant ones’ — and there are 70,000 myriads of them. A myriad is ten thousand… so do the maths! They are described as being composed of white fire – after all, when you get close to the Divine Throne, you might expect things to hot up…