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[Note: For the purposes of this paper (which is not a Christian Apologetic piece but a non-religious examination of the topic 'metaphysics') the words 'divine' and 'supernatural' and so on will stand in for any and all variations and perambulations possible for any extra-natural, non-human, spiritual, or otherwise intelligence or entity with regards to its role in the mundane world. The author’s own definition of God is best defined as ‘the uncaused first cause’ alluded to in Aristotle’s works. Thank you]
[Further Note: No disrespect or slight of any named Deity is intended. Superior Beings of many faiths are named in this discussion and all are treated as they are presented by their followers at face value. No judgments by the author are made or intended to be inferred from this work.]
As an Academic Work In Progress-
portions of this paper may be revised at any time.
Some sections of this work deal with decidedly adult themes although those sections are intended as academic discussion, they may offend some persons who wish and are looking to be offended. You have been warned.
The image most people have of God is fairly consistent as is the fact that they will say that they Love God.
They picture what would essentially be the figure in the Michelangelo paintings, but then at the same time they know that God is a true spirit, and that by definition, He is Beyond our Comprehension, so those paintings really have nothing to do with the image of God. So they could probably be convinced (although it would take some doing with some more hardheaded types) that instead of their loving God, they love the idea OF God. That's an important concept and we'll get back to it in a later edition of this work.
And most people would say that God loves them, even though he may not love what they are doing at the time.
The unmatched love of God for people cannot be compared to even the love of a parent for a child, because there are times when even the most loving parent will disown a child
God, as defined by most Western Religions is the source of Love. Which is then, or has been, or is.... whatever, transmitted to us, and we circulate it amongst ourselves in whichever forms it takes. Even sappy songs by purple dinosaurs.
Which brings us to Angels as messengers of that love from God to Us.
(now that's a leap and no mistake, but... onward anyway.)
Elsewhere this writer goes into some depth on the subject of angels, and most of that need not be rehashed here. For discussion see the Dancing in the Sight of the Lord Series- Special Edition on Angels.
Suffice it to say that In Scripture the standard issue 'angel' that is mentioned are either male or of neither sex, do not have wings or halos (winged angels are seraphs- Isaiah 6, or cherubim see below tangent), nor are they disposed to sit on clouds and play harps. However, they are known to wrestle and fight in Genesis 32 and in Jude, carry swords see Numbers 22 and 1 Chronicles 21 among others, and act as instruments of judgment like in Revelation in various places. As well as to carry messages for God- see the Gospels. In no place in the Bible do they act of their own accord. And, in fact, don't understand things like salvation see 1 Peter 1:12.
Of course in the apocryphal books, namely the books of Enoch and Jubilees, angels are discussed somewhat at length and the various classes of them that we are familiar with are listed in detail. Also mentioned is the passage from Genesis where the 'sons of Heaven' got it on with 'the daughters of men' and created a race of giants. And then they go on to discuss every other legend and tale ever mentioned by or credited to the actual Books of Moses.
The origin and dates of both the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees is disputed, although part of both were found with the Dead Sea Scrolls, although the only complete version of either appear in the Ethiopian Codex both differ in some significant ways with modern Western Translations.
Enoch appears to have been written over the course of several hundred years by various writers acting pseudepigraphally (writing in the name and voice of a Biblical Figure) between about 300 and 150 BC originally in the Aramaic language.
Jubilees makes no such claim of authorship as does Enoch, but seems to have appeared at about the same time, in pre-Greek-influence Israel, and most likely, from a similar source, a scholar or Pharisee, this time written in Hebrew. The theory that it was written by Moses, in spite of what is implied in the text itself, is almost totally without merit as is the claim that it is the oldest Jewish scripture.
Since at least some of both books were known in the Essene Community in the century before Christ there is at least the authority due an ancient book. But as far as inspiration or credibility of authorship, there is none. While they may have somewhat influenced Western religious thought and are an entertaining, if difficult, read, they may not be any more than that.
Winged heavenly beings predate Christianity, of course, by thousands of years.
Some ancient images of the female aspect of the creation deity put a woman's face and upper torso on the body of a bird, complete with wings.
Beautiful female beings with wings and even halos date back to images of the Egyptian goddess Isis and even further. The halo was used to refer to the sun-god in various cultures and soon became representative of 'higher' beings in other forms.
Remember those 'cherubs' we mentioned earlier? Those are descendants of the Roman image of the god Eros.
Reasonable argument could be made that the current image of a female person with wings and a halo is simply a pagan invasion of our culture and has nothing at all to do with the messengers of the Judeo-Christian God.
The Angels that came to Lot in Sodom, the one that wrestled with Jacob, the angel that the Roman Centurion Cornelius saw and the one that guided John were all men. The male pronoun is used in all versions of Scripture in these verses. At least those that have not been made Politically Correct (which is an abomination in and of itself- we'll get to that later).
How about this one? Explain the difference between a pagan fairy and a 'Christian' angel? Both are represented as lovely women with wings and 'magical' powers. Except for their relative size in the artwork (fairies are usually tiny), and the length of their skirts (angels wear floor length robes), there appears to be no real difference.
(Ok, angels have swan wings and sometimes fairies have butterfly or insect wings. The point has been made.)
Enough of that.
Do NOT call cute little winged baby angles with hearts and bows and arrows 'cherubim' or even cherubs for that matter. No matter any influence from Greek mythology, the terms are not interchangeable with the 'living creatures' in the Bible.
Biblical Cherubim are far from cute and possess flaming swords (Gen 3) instead of bows. Had two faces- one of a man the other of a lion (Ezekiel 41) neither a baby. And are described as guardians (Ezekiel 28).
The author is still looking for any reference to basic angels having wings or blond hair. So far, it hasn't found one.
But then again, The Truth hasn't stopped people from worshipping them and the industry that has sprouted up around the angel cult fueled by TV shows and greeting card people. Even in spite of the fact that we are specifically told NOT to worship them in Colossians 2:18 and Revelation 22: 8 and 9:
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me.
But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"
But that is not really part of this part of this discussion. However we may touch on it later.
We'll just ignore those that claim to have felt the 'love of the angels' and all that tripe. We've seen the problems 'loving' angels can create in both Genesis and the Book of Enoch.
And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' And Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.'
Enoch 6 : 1 - 4
Suffice it to say that in Enoch at least, Semjaza does pay for his 'great sin'.
And the Lord said unto Michael: 'Go, bind Semjaza and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves with them in all their uncleanness. And when their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgment and of their consummation, till the judgment that is for ever and ever is consummated. In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined for ever.
Enoch 10 : 11 - 14
We were looking at the angel's job as messengers of love to men.
One of the most famous is Luke 2: 8 - 14
Aside from their dramatic role in Revelation, almost every New Testament appearance of angels is related to the Life of Christ, either around the Birth, or the scene outside the tomb of the Risen Lord and later the Ascension.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Why would God use Angels to communicate with People?
Because it suits Him to do so. And that's all the reason we need.
God has also talked directly to people. And in ways besides burning bushes.
Remember the Transfiguration? God spoke to the three apostles from on high without a bush in sight. Peter heard the voice of God during his vision of the great sheet, and so on. Moses later had encounters with him without any shrubbery at all, "Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face." Deuteronomy 34 :10.
But the Chosen People told Moses NOT to have God talk directly to them.
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die."
Exodus 20: 18 and 19
Could it be that we would have the same problem if the Almighty God spoke directly to us? Even if we believed it was Him and not somebody with a hidden camera TV show.
So it could very well be that both the angels that appear, and those that wrote the texts we mentioned earlier discussing them are a necessary device for those occasional messages that do come down from above.
However, most of the time it would appear that the Creator's Will is made manifest through slightly more pedestrian means.
It is almost a clique to say that the best way to feel God's Love for man or to know His Will for us is to read His Word. Yet it would appear to be true.
We won't go into the absolutely pointless discussion as to whether books like Enoch should be part of Canon of Scriptures or are, at best, quasi-Biblical, and at worst heretical.
To put it simply and in short: We will NEVER know. Period.
Nobody living today was around when the scroll of Enoch was put in that clay pot in Qumran. We cannot know why they considered it worth preserving along with their copy of Isaiah. Did they consider both works equally authoritative? Was there a note in the clay pot with Enoch that labeled it as 'popular fiction' or some such and the note simply not survive two millennia?
We're going to mention the Gospel of Thomas in a little bit. It has been traced back to at least the first century after Christ, but wasn't included in the Canon due to some political issues. Is it really authentic? Who knows?
Other works are known to be second or third century works written to 'fill in the gaps' in the generally accepted Gospel story. Still others may be the real item, but the chain of evidence is lacking, or large parts of the manuscripts are missing, as with the 'Gospel of Mary'.
Even in the New Testament there is mentioned works by Paul that have not been included in our Bible. Which makes the argument of those that claim the King James Version is divinely inspired rather thin doesn't it?
After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
Colossians 4 : 16
To our current knowledge, no authentic letter from Paul to the Laodiceans has survived.
And in the end it probably does not matter.
Most ranking scholars of this sort of thing agree that what we have is sufficient for the purpose it was written, without Paul's letter to the Laodiceans or the Book of Enoch or any of the others.
Don't worry, we're heading back around to the point.
And here we go...
That last bit is also the best answer for why the appearances of angels and booming voices from the clouds are at best rare.
We HAVE enough information to act on our best interpretation of God's will, whatever that might be. We don't actually NEED angels with flaming swords to block our path.
Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her."
Numbers 22: 31 - 33
And since we as a race possess adequate information for our needs, special intervention like that is no longer needed as a general rule.
"In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength."
General Robert E. Lee, CSA
Balaam the oracle of the Lord, for his part, was disobeying a direct order from God to not go on a road trip with a 'friend' from out of town. He had received the direct Word from the Lord to stay home, but instead he let them talk him into going. And so the Lord sent a message to him that he couldn't ignore, then after Balaam's eyes were opened as to who was actually in charge around there. Later when the prince heard what the Lord said through Balaam, he didn't like it one bit, but he had to live with it.
Balak (the prince) said to Balaam, "What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!"
Numbers 23: 11
The Lord has a habit of opening our eyes every so often, sometimes individually, sometime as a group, so we can see what has been in front of us all along. We are every bit as hard headed as Balaam, but we have The Book to guide us. Balaam only had his donkey.
Yes, God loves us. And he has commanded us to love each other.
Yes God granted us the ability to love in varying degrees, including purely physical, indeed lecherous, ways. But we are also capable of far more intense and meaningful emotions.
But our emotions can lead us astray. In fact, we are fully capable of 'feeling' that we are doing the right thing, and are actually committing a terrible mistake that will have horrendous consequences. And then if we actually look and think and allow ourselves to see the obvious, God was right there the whole time pointing us the right way, except we were just too hard headed to see it.
But because God Is Love, as it says quite eloquently in First John.
We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
KJV 1 John 4: 6 - 8
Ok, we're getting there.... Moving On
And we'll steer back away from straight up Christian teachings and get back to Metaphysics as well.
The point, there was a point to all this after all, was that Love originates in the Creator.......
That we CAN 'feel' that love directly, and share it between people as well. There is some dispute about exactly how and on what level all this occurs, but that we CAN is fairly clear.
Now having said all that....
What IS 'love'?
The first reaction of anybody that attempts to answer that question is that love is a deep strong emotion, almost primal- like fear, that operates somewhere on that boundary between a conscious thought and whatever lies beneath.
And then comes the dictionary definition: Intense affection and deeply emotional attachment from kinship or parenthood, romantic desire and commitment... etc.
A delayed reaction is usually somewhat simpler- "Ouch".
We have discussed the various forms of it, and except for the physical act the rest of them are purely emotional, and trying to pin down a root emotion, or in this case, a range of them (friendship, romance, commitment, and so on) that create what we call 'Love' is notoriously difficult.
And to be absolutely honest about, we have to admit that this is true as well:
Humans are hard-wired, usually, to love their newborn children instinctively. It ensures the survival of the species since our offspring are more or less helpless and totally dependant on others for their care and feeding for, in some cases, twenty years or more.
But what of those others we love who aren't our parents or children? Toby Keith and Marilyn Monroe had somewhat different ideas of whom and what, and even how, they loved, but both seemed to be familiar with the emotion.
But does Mr. Keith's love of that bar instill in him the kind of longing heartsickness one experiences when your 'significant other' is out of town for a few days the first time since your wedding? Does it promote that sense of near panic when your child gets on the school bus for the first time and the bus pulls away and turns the corner?
Did Ms Monroe feel that need in the middle of the night to occasionally reach out and touch whoever she was close to at the time just to re-assure herself they were still there in spite of herself?
It has often been said, and even repeated in this article, that sex without emotion is simply an empty and somewhat mechanical act.
We will continue for the moment on that line and carry it to its extreme.
If the act without love is somehow reduced to a biological function and risks becoming banal through simple repetition, what about the converse? Love without physical expression between two people? Platonic love as it were. Is that somehow holier than a traditional marriage with both love and sex?
The current Pope, Benedict XVI, recently wrote an extensive and detailed encyclical on the subject of human love, dealing with many of these same issues, although His Holiness is an order of magnitude more eloquent than this poor writer who found it a relief to note that he seems to come to some of the same conclusions in the end. The main one being that: Humans are capable of a wide array of emotions under the general heading of 'love'.
He also seems to be saying that there is nothing inherently evil with the physical expression of love known as 'eros' (i.e. sexuality) in and of itself, then attaches the approved teaching of the church by pointing out the time and place for it.
The pope also wades through a mind bending discussion of 'ascending' versus 'descending' love. (The names are counterintuitive. Ascending is Erotic love. Descending is Agape.) And how they are often portrayed as separate and at odds, but are in reality both deeply intertwined in us.
From there he goes into some heavy religious teachings. And, as the pope is wont to do, brings it all back to the Roman Church's party line. Even delving into the mystical aspect of the Song and taking the issue of the physicality of the two parties head on as the celebration of physical love, in marriage, it originally was.
And here we come back to that piece we mentioned from 1894, the advice to the bride... According that writer women were NOT supposed to enjoy sex. Which flies right in the face of what the bride in Song was doing. She not only enjoyed it, she may in fact have Initiated it!
Back to the pope.
Suffice it to say that El Papa entered into this discussion with a slightly different manifest than this writer. But it is worth noting that both had cited a great deal of the same types of examples both religious and secular. Although the Pope didn't enlist Barney the Dinosaur and Marilyn Monroe in his treatise.
So where does all this leave us?
The one constant that we have been toying with throughout this chapter is that love is a far more complicated business than a children's song or a quote from a silver screen sex goddess or the 'moan and grunt' script from an adult movie. Real true 'working' mature love can never be boiled down to the saying inside a greeting card. As was said earlier, all four of the classic stages of love are on the court and in play in nearly every relationship, and if we're honest with ourselves some emotions that aren't so warm and fuzzy are as well.
The entire range of emotions from 'fear and loathing' to agape, and some that are not easily labeled, can be at work at any one time. Even when your spouse is red-faced furious with you and screaming so angrily that their fillings are coming loose, they may still be in love with you, just right at that moment they couldn't admit it. Later, when the intensity of the argument has passed and both sides are calmer and you 'kiss and make up' there may still be some hint of disappointment or frustration there, but it has been benched for the time being and maybe passion or the need for comfort and reinforcement has come out to score. (pun intended)
Humans are not one trick ponies except in Hollywood where things now have to be written as two dimensionally as possible for the new generation of actors, since The Method has fallen out of favor.
SIDENOTE:In spite, or maybe because of, the complexity (counting the various detours) of the both the emotion this chapter has been dealing with, and the way it was presented we're going to try to summarize everything in a couple of short paragraphs and then move on to a (hopefully) more intellectual debate about what it means to be an intellectual, what is enlightenment, and what does 'God' have to do it in the next installment.
Method Acting was taught by various acting schools including 'The Actor's Studio' of New York. It required the actor to totally immerse themselves in the character they would be portraying. Some actors would go out into the community and live as a wino or a taxi driver or work in a hospital emergency room to learn all they could about the character they were portraying and experience the character's emotions within themselves.
The Method was considered very difficult both to teach and to master. It required intense study in several fields and 'getting to know' the person they were portraying on the stage.
Multiple reasons are given for its falling by the wayside. Some are mere excuses given by the younger crop of 'instant celebrities' others are more based in the modern reality of the entertainment business. Given today's 'in and out' shooting schedules for movies and TV shows, the actors involved sometimes scarcely have time to learn their lines, let alone spending weeks or months becoming the character in the script.
Several notable actors used The Method including Marlon Brando (Best Actor Academy Award for the Godfather) and Robert DeNiro (Raging Bull), both actors are still known for the intensity of their performances.
Love, in all its forms... From the love of Toby Keith for his favorite bar to the love of President Lincoln for his country, from the love of the Pope for his people to the love of a Hollywood star for whoever they are using at the moment to further their career, from the love of a grandparent for a new grandbaby to a pair of glassy-eyed newlyweds... is a dynamic force in the human psyche. It is a powerful and almost indominitable force that has to be reckoned with when dealing with human relationships. It can also be played for a weakness and used as a weapon if things go sour either on a battlefield or a courtroom.
We need Love. It would appear to be as necessary to the make up of an individual as the need for food or sleep. Except, of course, in those rare cases where a person is a true sociopath or has an equally unbalanced personality. If we do not have other people to love, we take in stray cats who depend on us or we develop an affection for a baseball team and express devotion to it. Deprived of the nurturing aspect of love- newborn infants fail to thrive even if fed and kept warm. Loneliness has probably killed as many elderly widows as any real diagnosable illness. The need to and for love may be all but encoded into our very DNA. And the discussion as to whether or not it actually is might be most interesting to listen to.
And we do not understand Love. But most of us are capable of identifying it when it happens, like the "Love Chapter" in First Corinthians. And equally, we know what it is not.
It may sound sappy. OK. It Does sound sappy: Love Completes Us.
We throw around terms like 'Soul Mate' (remember the discussion of the terminology in Song of Solomon?), and 'Other Half' when we are discussing our spouses. Many parents have reported that they didn't know what life was about until they had children, or in some cases grandchildren.
And when we Make Love, more often than not, strong emotions up to and including Love itself are involved. Having sex with someone can invoke those emotions and end up destroying the friendship. Which isn't the way you would think it would work, but, unfortunately for many close friends who become closer, it does. However, when between partners in a long term relationship, 'making love' actually does- make love, and they become 'soul mates', and confirm what we've stated before:
Love, besides being a "many splendored thing" is really, Really Complicated.
So, since we do love. What does that say about us?
THAT shall be part of our discussion in the next chapter: "Here, There, or No Where"
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