A Conversation with Zophiel


(December 2009) – Reflections from my lovely wife

Nat and I often find that we are drawn to things that we need.  Although we are not drawn often enough to recognise a sign of what is to come.  This was the case last June when I added a copy of Oesterreich’s book “Possession Demonical and Other” to my holiday reading and set off for a week in the Umbrian countryside. 

 ‘Possession Demonical and Other’ [1] was expanded and is much fuller than the original 2 articles, first published in “Deutsche Psychologie”.  It includes first-hand accounts of a range of possessions dating back to 1563. 

Oesterreich takes a scientific approach in defining and classifying possession. He identifies many diverse sources of accounts of possession such as academic and medical journals, Holy Scriptures, psychology journals and a wider range of written second hand and eye-witness accounts. In doing so he recognises the fallibility of auto-descriptive narratives, in that often the subjects (or victims) in the majority of possessions are not in a condition after the event to describe it. There are also many examples of post-possession amnesia.

The first part of the book deals with the subject of ‘the nature of the state of possession’ and he describes three ways in which possession is manifest;

  1. The possessed takes on a new physiognomy (changing facial features)
  2. Changes in voice – tone pitch
  3. Change in personality demonstrated through utterances of another (or others as there were many citations of multiple entities possessing one person at the same time)

There are many examples of possession using the three manifestations; however, I suspect there are also many less fantastic and immediately observable examples of possession.  Erwin Rohde (German Philologist) speaks of possession as:

“a transient derangement of the psychic balance, a state in which the conscious mind is dominated, of ‘possession’ by outside forces”

For many of us, the first thoughts of possession lead us to ‘that’ scene in the film William Friedkin’s film ‘The Exorcist’. Where possession occurs in an exciting or unusual (or more obvious and dramatic) manner it may be easily recognised and evaluated or defined.  Maybe where it is less dramatic, it may be harder to recognise or define.  I found myself wondering if the subtlety of manifestation makes it any the less of a possession.

I had booked the week long break as a surprise.  Nat was going to stone carve for a week, and I was planning to catch up on some reading and not too much else.  The setting was idyllic, a small cluster of renovated old Tuscan farm buildings became home for the small group of stone carvers and their associated friends, family and partners.  We had taken a small apartment, below us was an American couple, travelling together, Maria was also carving but Alan just taking a European break from running a counselling centre in Colorado. I had an odd feeling about Alan, I could not quite put my finger on it, he seemed nice, but definitely a bit strange. 

The first day had been a long drive, it was hot and we went to bed, it was then that I noticed Nat behaving strangely.  It was not a dramatic event, just a small question, as he put his arm around me to go to sleep, he asked “who are you baby?” at first I thought he had said “how are you?” and so I replied “fine, but tired” then he asked the question again “no, who are you”. I laughed, turned over and went to sleep.  When we got up the next morning I joked and asked if he remembered my name yet?  He did not really understand what I was talking about and had no memory of what happened the night before.  I put it down to tiredness.

Whilst Nat was standing in a field carving stone all day, I had started reading Oesterreich’s work, and was interested in some of the accounts of possession and his scientific manner of evaluating the difference between mental health delusions and real possessions. As we climbed into bed on our second evening, another strange conversation took place, Nat said in a low voice “it’s got to be good for you but even better for her”   I was annoyed and replied “who the hell is her” it was the plaintive quality of the reply that unnerved me, he said “Lenni” it was at that moment I realised that he was not actually talking to me at all… Nat was asleep at least he appeared so at this time.

I did not understand, and went to sleep, but it unnerved me, there was something about the way he said my name.  I did not immediately make a link to possession.  That came later. 

The weather had not turned out to be quite the midsummer sunshine I had hoped for we had freakish winds, storm clouds, thunder and lightning.  So instead of lazing by the pool, I convinced Nat to take one day off and visit Perugia, it was here inside the Church of San Ercolano that I witnessed a transformation,  quite suddenly I saw Nat fly into a rage and began shouting, saying things such as “ Bastard whore of Babylon, its lies, it’s all a sham, an outrage – this is not what it is or supposed to be”   I dragged him outside, not understanding what any of it was about or why he suddenly felt the need to tell half of Perugia what was in his mind.  Outside the church he seemed really tired, he was aware of what had been said and when I asked him he could not explain apart from saying that “it felt like it came through my eyes”.  I made a mental note not to do anymore churches this trip – perhaps he was safer in a field with stones and little else!

The next evening we had invited Alan and Maria for a drink.  I watched Alan intently, trying to work him out and not being able to identify what it was that left me unnerved.  I noticed he kept glancing over Nat’s left shoulder.  After about twenty minutes of polite conversation Alan suddenly asked Nat “Do you know the name of your spirit guide?”  We were amused more than surprised; our interests in the occult had introduced us to many interesting people and ideas. (It took a couple more conversations and days before I found that Alan also had his own spirit guide and my initial reaction was actually not to him, but to his guide.  I could actually see and experience him; the biggest clue again was in the eyes.)

 However I was more surprised when Nat answered “Err I don’t know, Zophiel I think, but there is another name too… err Barachiel” 

Clearly the – “iel “suffix indicated an angelic reference, but beyond that we had no information.  We have a long interest in Angels, daemons and the esoteric.  We have often researched old and archaic texts and come upon interesting myths, stories and legends.  Many of these provided the basis for Nat’s painting and art.  I was surprised as I had never heard of either of these names, nor at that point, had Nat.  He was unsure as to the source of this information and tried to shrug it off, but at that moment, I had begun to understand what I had observed over the previous days. 

It was not until we returned home a week later, were we able to undertake any real research.  Then through a mixture of old texts and internet searches we were able to piece together a bit more information.  Zophiel, is indeed one of the names given to an Angel.  Nat sensed that there were two entities, Zophiel the foremost, Barachiel the lesser, but there all the same.  We knew from previous experience that researching Angels and angelic references is not always straight forward or easy.  There are often different names and sometimes conflicting information depending on the particular texts.  To overcome this we usually try to triangulate the information we find, and track back to the most original sources and texts available. 

So in researching the two names that had come to Nat, we found Barrachiel [2] also referred to as Barakel, Baraqiel, Barakiel, Baraqijal, Barqiel, Barachiel, Sachiel. Barbiel [3] (in 5thC manuscripts the letter ‘K’ and ‘b’ are not easy to distinguish) Meaning “lightening of God”  One of the seven archangels and of the four ruling seraphim. As Seraphim, Barachiel rules The Confessors and is Prince of the Second and Third Heaven and Gate keeper of the East Wind [4].   Also one of the Enochian Fallen Angels, Grigori or watchers who united with the daughters of men. In this role who taught humankind Astrology.

He was leader of the “Chiefs of Ten” a troop of Fallen Angels. [5]  Associated with Barbiel [6]who serves as one of the seven Electors (of Hell) under the suzerainty of Zaphiel. He is cited in the Book of Rezial to be the angel who guided Shem. A protector of seasonal attributes for sustained life. There in the preservation of crops, the prospering of the birds of fowl and the surety that mines would be plentiful of metals and gemstones.

Zophiel, Zaphiel, [7] Zafiel, Iofiel, Zaphkiel, Zappiel, Jophiel, Cassiel, Zaapiel[8]. Meaning  “Knowledge of God” ,“God’s Spy” and “God’s Rage”. In solominic rites he is invoked in the prayer of the master of the Art. He assisted Michael as a standard bearer in the battle for heaven. He is also cited as Ruler of the Cherubim[9]. He was the preceptor of Noah.  As Zaapiel derived from Za’ap (Hebrew) meaning rage, anger or storm he is also recognised as angel of storms.[10] As Zafiel he is the angel of rain. He is responsible for the condemned souls and there transition to Sheol, where he beats them with rods of burning coals.

As Iophiel he was the preceptor to Noah[11] and his sons as Barachiel was to Shem; teaching Noah how to construct the Ark. Paracelsus cites him as the Intelligence of Jupiter [12] and in the Kabbalah he is the angel of Binah, therefore an angel and archetype of the erudite specialist. He is also associated with artists, illumination [13].

Our research led us to many references for both Zophiel and Barachiel.  We were able to make some connections to our findings; including the obvious links to artists and metal workers (Nat also makes jewellery and sculptures using precious metals and gems).  The unusual inclement weather and the storms were not like common summer storms, they lasted for days with high winds and rain.

Over the next few weeks, Nat’s odd behaviours continued, they were not constant, but were frequent. Now I was watching more intently I could see a slight change in him and although his voice did not change his syntax did, it was slight, but noticeable. His eyes also seemed to change, his pupils dilating a little. This was not as in the fantastic and dramatic effect used in the ‘Supernatural’ TV series, but I did later find a reference that described a test for obsession (by which they mean a permanent possession).

“The eye is the window of the soul,” and only the true owner is capable of contracting and expanding the iris, or pupil, of the eye. If we take a person we think is obsessed to a darkened room, we shall find that the pupil of his eye will not expand if he is obsessed. Neither will the pupil contract when we bring him into the sunlight. In short, the pupil of the eye will respond neither to light nor to distance when a person is obsessed.” [13]

With Nat, obvious fleeting moments of rage were apparent. One morning, finding him asleep in his studio with the name Zophiel writ large on the floor, when I asked him why he said “I needed to be able to stand on the name”, this made no real sense to him or me, but I was glad the urge came in his studio and not in the sitting room or kitchen. 

The other significant change was in Nat’s painting.  His style changed dramatically, the subjects of his work are often related to Angels, and research has inspired many of his paintings, but the new paintings since this experience are different.  The subjects are still related to Angels, their content putting a new and different emphasis on measurement, temples, new geometric shapes that represent deep and profound concepts.  I would not classify this as channelling or created whilst he was in an unconscious/somnambulistic state, he was very much aware of what he was creating, but felt influenced.

 The first piece he named “A conversation with Zophiel”, the subjects are space, time, measurement and a relationship with a creator.  Austin Osman Spare described his magical processes as an “interaction between the conscious and sub-conscious”[14]. Spare talked about the “dream man” and bringing thoughts, ideas and images from the back of the mind into the public domain. In Nat’s case, the interaction is not with his sub-conscious, but with another, residing albeit temporarily within.  Nat felt that he became more aware, his fields of perception were opened and whilst he could not find the words to describe clearly the process, he sensed a guidance and new direction in his thinking. I asked him to describe what he experienced, it has taken many many times before I was able to get him to articulate this experience, finally, he surmised it as;

“It is difficult to articulate what this feels like. At best I can say it feels like ‘they’ are behind me, like a shadow (this is not meant to infer any malevolence). A free willed consciousness I am in conversation with. As a boy it was more like a body of others…now it is more intimate with perhaps, I believe, two. When I am aware of their presence I feel that I am looking through my eyes as more than one. I am thinking as a multifunction, in a dialogue of shape, colour and touch…no sound as I can recall. They also evoke emotions within me. These sometimes have to come out particularly when something needs to be said. I’m not sure of my self control in this aspect of it all really.

I have been connected to “others” since my early childhood. These are memories now, faded and recalled as thin reflections, transient and dreamlike. Recently I have been aware of these feelings again. Stronger more tangible I think. These recent encounters have found themselves in my drawings, scribbling and now my paintings and three dimensional work.[15]

 At the moment these ideas are “grand” in materials and geometric construct; defined symbolically located from my internal ruminations and reference material that attracts me.
Am I aware of these others”.

I am spiritual not religious. I often say that the idea of religion and religious activities offend me. They do, I struggle with ideas that control people and I understand religion doing this therefore constricting personal growth. Choice and freewill are victims of this by religion fear of loss and lack of control. Therefore, primary ideas form religions and beliefs have become politically distorted and have lost their way. However, it is now that I am able to start to understand why.

I think that religion has been useful for people to explore what it is about life they understand and their place within it. In the past, archaic and more recent, it has acted as a scientific and philosophical release to understand our position in life and our relationship with the intangible. So I am often found saying, “Magic, what is magic? Well it is science not yet best explained.”

I am easily attracted to icons and symbols, usually arcane, as starting points to explore my relationship with the self….external and internal. In all of this I am aware of “others”…these are beings that permeate through all religious cultures and have connections in animistic, scientific and spiritual realms and understandings. My research and reading is centred on all of this.”

When Oesterreich explored the subjective nature of the possessed, he concluded the possibility of both evil and good entities possessing a person.  In some of the examples the possessed person was described as somnambulistic- which is defined as an abnormal condition of sleep in which motor acts such as walking are performed.  In these circumstances, clearly the possessed person is completely unaware of their actions.  However there are also many cases where the possessed person remains lucid and retains consciousness if not control.  I noticed with Nat that on the whole he retained clear consciousness, however there were moments when he was unaware of what had passed and did not have any memory of parts of conversation or his actions. This influence continues today, all the paintings since this experience are produced using a great deal of metal and metallic paint, primarily gold, but also copper and bronze.

So Zophiel still seems to be around; Nat describes him as ‘somewhere in the background’.  To paraphrase Rohde, Nat experienced a passing change of his psychic balance, in which his conscious mind has been influenced rather than dominated, of ‘possession’ of an outside forces. In this case, Nat believes the external force was not attempting to dominate and be a controlling force, but more open to a new level of awareness and understanding.

Whilst not obviously, ever-present Zophiel and Barachiel have become a constant in Nat’s work, some of which will be exhibited in Turin this year. As for this year’s holiday reading – I intend to choose carefully what is added to the list!

1 Oesterreich, T.K. (1930) Possession Demonical and Other, Kegan Paul, London

2   Ginzberg, L. (1909) [edition 9, 1998], The Legends of the Jews, The John Hopkins University Press

3   Liddell, S. & Mac Gregor , M. & Crowley, A. (1995)[ second sub edition] The Goetia: The lesser key of Solomon the King : Lemegeton-Clavicula Salomonis Regis, book 1, Weiser Books

4   Savedow, S. (1701) [2000] Sepher Rezial Hemelach: The Book of the Angel Rezial, Weiser

5   Camfield, B. (1678) Theological Discourse of Angels, London

6   Barrett, F. (1801 ) [2000],  The Magus: A Complete System of Occult Philosophy, Red Wheel/Weiser

7   Klopstock, F G. (1826) [2007], The Messiah, A Poem, Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green

 8  Skinner, S & Rankine, D. (2005) Keys to the Gateway of Magic: Summoning the Solomonic Archangels & Demon Princes, Part 1363, Golden Hoard Press

9   Ambelain, R. (1951). [1990]La Kabbale Pratique Book I, Bussière

 10  Bar Yohai, S.  Berg, M. (2000) The Zohar, numbers 154a, Kabbalah Publishing

 11  Milton, J. (1759) [2006] Paradise Lost. Oxford University

12  Davidson, G. (1971) [1994]. A Dictionary of Angels, Simon & Shuster

13  Fischer, L. (1996) Angels of Love and Light, Zephyr/T M P (Transformational Media Publications

14 Spare (1913)The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): The Psychology of Ecstasy. Spare

15 http://www.natcleggart.blogspot.com

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