Sunday, December 30, 2007

Emanations of Aeons and Angels

[This is an excerpt from a much large piece entitled "The Hidden Gnostic"]

Angels are believed to reside in heaven and worship, or praise, and serve God, usually as messengers.
Angel comes from the Greek word angelos, meaning “messenger”. What is a messenger?
Messenger: n. 1 a person who carries a message. 2 a person employed to carry messages.

If an angel is a messenger (a person who carries a message from God) then this would seem to contradict God’s omnipresence. If God is everywhere what need is there for a messenger or a delivery boy? Perhaps God is simply too busy? This would contradict God’s omnipotence. So why or how can angels be justified? Because angels are mentioned in the bible? Maybe we should revisit our understanding of the definition of messenger.

-er suffix forming nouns from nouns, adjectives, and many verbs, denoting: 1 a person, animal, or thing that performs a specified action or activity.

If we look at the noun message with the suffix –er we end up with a slight, but important difference. Maybe we would be better off looking at this from a different point of view. Suppose you have an answering machine. I call you when you’re out and leave a message. When you return home and see the light flashing on your answering machine you become aware that there is some message waiting for you. At this one point in time the answering machine is the messenger (or angelos). You are only aware of the messenger (angelos) itself, but not the message nor it’s sender. Once you listen to the message, the messenger (angelos) – your answering machine – is long since forgotten. Now only the message itself exists as does your awareness of it’s sender (in this case, me). This may be a very accurate analogy as to what an angel exactly is – a flashing light to catch your attention – a mechanical device – a simple physical manifestation.

Angels are primarily spiritual beings but could actually be (at least at times) physical. But it’s at these two points that the Bible becomes very ambiguous. If we take into account that the ancient Hebrews (who actually wrote the Old Testament) didn’t believe it occurred historically if it wasn’t’ recorded in the Old Testament, then we have a problem.

In the first 3 chapters of Genesis there is no specific mention of the creation of the spiritual world, angels, demons, Satan (the devil), or the Archangels. There is only one non-specific point of mention in Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

It later says in Genesis 1:7-8 that
So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky”. And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day.

This is to distinguish between the “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 and the “sky” in Genesis 1:8. So it is still only within Genesis 1:1 that there is absolutely any mention of the possible creation of a spiritual world. It also should be stated that this absolutely could not be taken to mean space, the stars, planets, etc. because these are specifically mentioned in Genesis 1:14-19.

There is absolutely no mention of the creation of angels. Yet later in Genesis and Exodus and other books, they exist! There are some interesting points we should consider:

1.The authors of the Old Testament seem to substitute between calling some of these manifestations “angels of the Lord” and the Lord Himself. Many times it seems to be interchangeable. Compare the following verses:
Exodus 13:21 and Exodus 14:19. Both are referring to the guiding pillar of cloud and fire.
Exodus 3:2 and Exodus 3:4. These are referring to the burning bush.
Judges 6:11 (The angel of the Lord came and sat down…), Judges 6:20 (The angel of the Lord said to him…) and Judges 6:14 (The Lord turned to him and said…), and Judges 6:23 (But the Lord said to him…)

2.In some passages the term “angel” is synonymous with and interchangeable with the title “sons of God”.

3.The four “senior” angels, or later to be called Archangels, had individual names containing the element el, meaning “god”: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel.

Could angels truly not exist, at least in a way that we understand them? Could angels actually be physical unidentified manifestations of God Himself in our world? This could explain all the above points.

Angels (and more specifically archangels) have their Gnostic counterparts: the Aeons. The Aeons in Gnostic belief were, like Sophia (Wisdom), other emanations of the Supreme God. They were like lesser gods, or possibly demi-gods. Of these Aeons (and I need to remind you again that their Christian counterparts are angels or archangels), one “fell” and created the material world. This is the Demiurge, an evil, lesser and flawed god and ruler of this world. Satan would be this Gnostic’s Demiurge’s counterpart. The similarities become very synonymous and nearly interchangeable – the most noteworthy difference being that the Demiurge created and rule this world, while Satan is believe to only govern or control our world.

How could these two virtually polarized cultures or communities have so much in common? So where is gnosticism today? It is true that some Gnostics were simply wiped out (e.g. the Cathars of southern France). Some survive to this day in isolated and obscure areas of the world. The Mandaeans still exist in Iraq and Manicheism still exists. Some ancient Gnostic movements seem to have simply disappeared or died out, like the Valentinians. There has also been a revival since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library, but this is simply old religion being practiced once again. But I believe yet another aspect of the Gnostics still exists, deeply hidden and buried within mainstream orthodox Christianity. Christianity absorbed it! When the modern Christian, like you or me first encounter gnosticism we are at best slightly curious and at worst outraged and appalled, even frightened! But yet it is within our own beliefs! Why are we so appalled and scared? In a word: Nomenclature: a community’s system of names for things. We are not used to the idea of “emanations from God”. We are quite comfortable with the term angel and archangel, yet quiver with fears of heresy and damnation with the term Aeon. The concept, idea, and tradition of the Virgin Mary is a symbol of purity and dedication to us, yet to acknowledge the goddess Sophia has us squirming with fears of wicca and paganism. For those few who look into gnosticism they discover a religious belief which would seem to be polytheistic. Yet so many of these elements are present within Christianity.

To better understand Angels (and for that matter, demons also) we must begin by discarding everything that we claim to know yet only truly assume, and start from scratch. The above example begins with the Greek word angelos meaning messenger. This presumes that angels are messengers and is itself an assumption. The oldest mention of angels significantly pre-date Greek translations – and like the translation of the Hebrew Sheol to the Greek Hades – something is lost and added at the same time.

I firmly believe there exists a spiritual world or realm and I believe that the bible supports this also (see The Nature of the Heavenly Realms). I also believe that spiritual beings or entities inhabit this spiritual realm. I think it is better to simply refer to these creatures as spiritual entities to begin with. The titles Angels and Demons have a great deal of preconceptions and assumptions that go along with them. The words “Angels” and “Demons” carry baggage.

I believe these spiritual entities exist within a heavenly or spiritual realm. I believe there are different “sizes” or species of entities. Some extremely powerful (possibly approaching the “omni-“ status), while others are very small, tiny, and of no real consequence. I believe some have made the decision to follow God’s will while others have chosen to follow other more powerful spiritual entities. I believe some have their own personal agenda and pledge allegiance to nothing other than their own selfish ambitions and desires. Some are good, some are evil, and some are neutral. It is only after that, can we start observing some sort of categorizing. Those who choose to follow and serve God’s will may be called Angels (if indeed they must be labeled). Those who rebel, specifically against God, may be referred to as Demons; so on and so forth. A very interesting point is that, unlike humans, I would tend to believe that these spiritual entities do not have the same kind of Free Will that we “enjoy”. I don’t think they have a choice of whether or not be believe. You will not find a spiritual entity who is Atheistic. Most demons exercised by Jesus immediately knew who He was – and I don’t mean, oh, you’re Jesus of Nazareth – they somehow knew and feared what He could do, or had the authority to do. This is clearly shown in the story of a demon possessed man (named Legion) whose exercised into a herd of pigs.
And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not…And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine…
Mark 5:7 and 5:12-13

These demons acknowledge that Jesus could cause them torment and literally ask permission to be exercised into the pigs rather than an unknown fate, to which He “gave them leave” or permission. It is clear that these demons named “Legion” knew. Can we call this faith? No, I wouldn’t think so, not in the traditional sense. I believe, being part of the spiritual realm, they have access to an experience or innate knowledge that we, as human beings, do not.

What is faith? Does faith believe without seeing? Not necessarily, because this would also include Blind Faith. Blind Faith believes without ever seeing or ever questioning.

Faith is an interactive relationship.
It believes because of what has been seen or experienced and trusting when something has not been seen or experienced. Trust is earned. That is the difference between Faith and Blind Faith – trust.

Trust is earned.
To earn something is to have witnessed or experienced it.

2 comments:

elizabeth said...

wow. seph you outdid yourself.

i need to think about that for a few days before i really respond

Macrina Lewis said...

If you are grooving on angels right now (and it sounds like you are!) you might like to listen to a newly-released CD called "Cherubika". You can find it at anaphorapress.com It has 11 versions of the "angelic hymn" sung in chant from Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Georgia, and Serbia.

And good work on the "heavenly beings" bit. I think you're onto something.