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The Dream visions of Enoch

And now, my son Methuselah, I will show thee all my visions which I have seen, recounting them before thee. Two visions I saw before I took a wife, and the one was quite unlike the other: the first when I was learning to write: the second before I took thy mother, (when) I saw a terrible vision. And regarding them I prayed to the I had laid me down in the house of my grandfather Mahalalel, (when) I saw in a vision how the heaven collapsed and was borne off and fell to the earth. And when it fell to the earth I saw how the earth was swallowed up in a great abyss, and mountains were suspended on mountains, and hills sank down on hills, and high trees were rent from their stems, and hurled down and sunk in the abyss. And thereupon a word fell into my mouth, and I lifted up (my voice) to cry aloud, and said: ‘The earth is destroyed.’ And my grandfather Mahalalel waked me as I lay near him, and said unto me: ‘Why dost thou cry so, my son, and why dost thou make such lamentation?’ And I recounted to him the whole vision which I had seen, and he said unto me: ‘A terrible thing hast thou seen, my son, and of grave moment is thy dream-vision as to the secrets of all the sin of the earth: it must sink into the abyss and be destroyed with a great destruction. And now, my son, arise and make petition to the Lord of glory, since thou art a believer, that a remnant may remain on the earth, and that He may not destroy the whole earth. My son, from heaven all this will come upon the earth, and upon the earth there will be great destruction. (The Dream Visions, chap. 83, vv. 1-9)

The book of dreams contains two visions. The first concerns the universal flood and the second the end of the world. The first one has such characteristics that lend itself to a symbolic reading (see text above). It is here clearly assumed the ancient cosmographic scheme, also shared in the book of Genesis and developed in a markedly apocalyptic fashion.

In Genesis 1 the dry land emerges from the lower waters, while the upper ones are held back by the rigid vault of the firmament. Here we have the reverse process. The firmament, falling on the ground, causes the upper waters to flow to the ground, swallowing everything that was there. However, here is not talk of water, but abyss that in the text of Genesis 1 is called tehom. In Genesis 1 there is practically equivalence between aquatic expanse, darkness and abyss, because all these things represent chaos – to use a Greek word – before creation.

Therefore, when heaven falls on the earth, it is as if the land suddenly was swallowed up by the darkness of chaos or the waters that symbolize it. As the sky falls on the ground, and so the waters flow to the earth, it disappears because it is submerged from the lower waters that are so increased.

The cause of this devastation are the sins of the earth. So it is in the text of Genesis, where there is talk of violence and corruption as the cause of the universal flood (see Genesis 6).

This text must not be taken in the letter, of course, because it contains a mythical and archetypal – but not unrealistic – scheme valid on the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels. The situation of pervasive and devastating anguish like a black sea that invades everything, generally follows an event that knocks on our lives, whether it is caused directly by us or caused by third parties. Something generally negative that allows the sea of ​​anguish to emerge and invade the field of our consciousness. However, such an invasion generally precedes a new cosmos, that is, a new creation, based on – if the crisis is taken as an opportunity for growth – on more stable and firm foundations.

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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