In which sceptical London barrister Beth Morgan is called by an Archangel to find an ancient manual of secrets and become the first woman in history to own The Book of Raziel. Her quest is fraught with dangers presented by a ruthless, murderous fundamentalist. Beth and her companion find the Book and uncover its supernatural potential, but she wants to return to normal life and climb her career ladder.
The Sefer Raziel ha‘Malakh is a legendary manual of practical information, given to Adam after the original human couple were expelled from the Garden of Eden for disobeying Yahweh’s injunction not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Another text, the Sefer HaRazim (the Book of Secrets) was said to have been given to Noah.
Over the centuries, there has been an element of incorporation between the two books. I wanted to use Adam as the original recipient in my story – that allowed me go back to the origin of our ‘knowledge of good and evil’, and use this fundamental human issue to explore the motivations of various characters. The precise meaning of ‘evil’ is a big question in The Angel of Secrets.
There were two trees in the garden – the second was the ‘Tree of Life’. Adam and Eve were allowed to eat freely from the life-giving tree.
Out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. – Genesis 2 v.9
When Eve disobeys and eats the forbidden fruit – often thought of as an apple, sometimes as a fig – she persuades Adam to partake as well. The ‘Lord God’ expels them from the garden, condemning them and their descendants to a life of suffering. (See my poem The Gates of Eden and my short story In the Beginning).
Perhaps the most intriguing lines in the Genesis story are these:
And the Lord God said, Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live for ever. – Genesis 3 v.22
It seems that humanity will not be permitted to understand the nature of good and evil and have access to immortality – we will not be allowed to become ‘as one of us’. It’s interesting to note the use of the plural here, as though the ‘Lord God’ is a collective. It is the case that in the original Hebrew, the word elohim, usually translated as God, is actually a plural variation of the singular el. But that’s for another conversation.
In the legend of the Book of Raziel, Adam prays and rants, and rants and prays, begging constantly for three days, hoping Yahweh will forgive them. Yahweh is implacable. They cannot return to their original bliss. However, ‘He’ (or they?) will grant them some opportunities to ameliorate the pain of having to survive in a world where they have no experience, no insights, no way to plan their future. Yahweh sends the Archangel Raziel as an emissary, the messenger who will deliver a book of pragmatic wisdom that will be their survival manual. Only a male human or his male descendants can apparently be trusted with this ‘book of secrets’.
In Sigil I of The Angel of Secrets, the 21st-century characters of Beth Morgan and Dan Cohen discover the legend of Raziel’s book and are very sceptical about its likely existence. But events are driving them towards uncovering its possible provenance.