by Peter Mohrbacher
In front of Enoch stood the Tree. It’s limbs pushed forth in every direction. A mass of wood that twisted upon itself, bending and creasing in patterns that swept across its boughs with wild intent. He traced a single twisting groove with his eyes, he followed a path dove and spun across the waves and eddies of the massive branch. It split and rejoined crashing and shattering against a swirling ring that tangled in upon itself and tore a path around to the reverse side forcing its way upward toward the reaching tips of the branches that splayed across the starry sky above him in violent motion and held totally still. The gnarled mass stretched outwards towards the infinite expanse that surrounded it, its boundaries impossible to define.
This was the heart of the place, the center of the Angelarium.
For all its size, the space in which it dwelled sought to dwarf it. Luminous clouds, pushed away in every direction and fell away behind the meridian of the horizon. Everything was equally far away, massively far away, leaving Enoch distant from all things.
The earth stretched below him, carved in glimmering relief and veiled in a thin blue halo. Enoch scanned the winding traces of water for features he recognized but the familiar places were lost amidst the enormity of the thing he beheld. Like the strange and distant rivers, he realized that even though his experiences existed as a part of the Tree, they were lost amidst the glory of the Tree’s scale. He was nothing and his life had been nothing.
He scanned it again. His memories of life hung in his mind overlaid against the wild routes that he traced in the shapes of the bark and yet he saw nothing familiar. His wife and son existed as twists upon this great Tree, he knew it was true and yet for all the time in the world, he knew he could never find path that traced their fates. Their lives lost amidst the chaos of creation, too insignificant to be perceived.
The angel stood over him silently as he wept. A severe figure clad in a sweeping grey costume with a polished white dome standing in for a face. It held a book under one arm.
“They are not lost.” said the angel.
“Angel, why do you speak to me when no others will, what do you know of my family?”
“I know all things. For that is what I am.” It turned its featureless mask towards Enoch. “I am Raziel.”
Enoch took this in. All the knowledge of the Creator stood before him incarnate. It made him feel small and dim witted.There were so many questions and yet he didn’t know what to ask. He wished his brother had been chosen instead. Israel had studied the scripture. He already knew the names of these angels. The shape of this place. He could ask the questions that would have brought meaning to this quest.
“What am I supposed to do now?” Enoch pleaded. His mind was too busy running through a list of regrets to fully acknowledge the situation as it was.
Raziel stood motionless for a moment and then centered its sightless gaze back towards the Tree as though he was considering an answer but ultimately did not speak.
“I didn’t choose to come here. I didn’t want this.” Enoch pleaded.
“I know” Said Raziel.
“In this place, I’m like a ghost and yet I don’t even know if I’m dead.”
“You are not dead.” Said Raziel
“This place is laden with meaning and yet I can’t decipher any of it. The knowledge of the Infinite lays before me and all I can see are mysteries. I’m no good for anyone here, it’s as though I don’t exist.”
“It’s true, you do not exist. But to be nothing is to be all things. The Infinite is the boundless heavens and the mustard seed in one. The thing which is all things cannot be described, for every word and every silence describes it. Your lack of understanding does not enrich nor diminish it.”
Enoch slumped. “I don’t understand.”
“You cannot understand but you can witness it.” Raziel reached out and laid its hand upon the great trunk of the Tree and Enoch saw that they now stood below it. Its branches now seemed to part from the main shaft no higher than his own height and the Tree stood much like an ordinary tree.
Enoch reached out, not expecting to make contact, but instead found his fingers pressing firmly upon the rough surface. It felt like wood. He laughed abruptly and pulled away.
“The Tree of Life. The thing that is all things is literally made of wood. That’s...I don’t know. I thought of it as a metaphor.” He touched it again, with reverence. “But it’s not wood, is it? Nothing in this place is anything.”
“You are correct.”
“What’s inside?” Enoch asked, leaning his weight against the Tree as he turned to face it front on.
“More wood.” Announced Raziel. “Or anything. Or nothing. All things.”
“It’s shape isn’t random.” Enoch observed. “Each twist shapes the nature of every other and then back upon itself in turn. There is a will here isn’t there. A spirit?”
“How do I learn more of Ein Sof?”
Raziel extended the book he had been carrying to Enoch and he pulled the tome towards his body. Opening it carefully he saw that the pages were blank.
When Enoch looked up, the angel was gone, as was the Tree and the infinite expanse of the Angelarium. He stood upon firm ground upon an unfamiliar hill and listened. Women’s voices drifted to his ear through the sound of rustling leaves.