Monday, April 17, 2017

For the Angels - 3:02; the Passions of Angels

The famous Ribaudo Angel found in the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno, sculpted by Onorato Toso in 1910. This monument was introduced to pop culture as the cover image for the (1980) Love Will Tear Us Apart 12" single by the British band, Joy Division. (YouTube video.) For more images from the Staglieno cemetery, try here.
(All images in this post can be clicked-on for a larger view.)

“The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”

- George Elliot, from "Scenes of a Clerical Life."

"A professed belief in angels would, inevitably, involve me in a belief in the supernatural, and that was the golden snare I did not wish to be caught in. Without committing myself religiously I could conceive of the possibility of there being, in dimensions and worlds other than our own, powers and intelligences outside our present apprehension, and in this sense angels are not to be ruled out as a part of reality - always remembering that we create what we believe. Indeed, I am prepared to say that if enough of us believe in angels, then angels exist."

-- Gustav Davidson. from his introduction to A Dictionary of Angels (1967), a compendium of angel lore which served as a major source for this post.

"... But the skies that angel trod,
Where deep thoughts are a duty,  
Where Love’s a grown-up God,
Where the Houri glances are
Imbued with all the beauty
Which we worship in a star.

Therefore, thou art not wrong,
Israfel, who despisest
An unimpassioned song;
To thee the laurels belong.
Best bard, because the wisest!
Merrily live, and long!

The ecstasies above
With thy burning measures suit -  
Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love, 
With the fervour of thy lute -
Well may the stars be mute!

Yes, Heaven is thine; but this
Is a world of sweets and sours;
Our flowers are merely—flowers,
And the shadow of thy perfect bliss
Is the sunshine of ours..."

- Edgar Allen Poe, from his poem "Israfel". Inset (above) is an illustration for Poe's poem by Edmund Dulac, found here. Another illustration for Poe's poem, by Hugo Steiner-Prag (shown after the jump, inset, right) can be found here.


In my previous installment of For the Angels I wasn't able to progress much further than a brief outline of the general history of angels and a few key points of esoteric angelology.  But, even with what little I provided, there seemed to exist an underlying conflict in almost all of the information. Although difficult to understand in the context of modern life, the theologians, philosophers, scholars and occultists of the past took the existence of angels very seriously; so much so that they developed a vast, complex body of lore regarding them; presumably independently, as the would-be chroniclers could not seem to agree on any one single point. For instance, due to the number of variations on any one single name, any one single angel might be conceived of as either good or "fallen", depending upon the source of the information. Names might also be interchangeable, as in case of the Islamic, trumpet-blowing archangel, Israfel (inset, left, and the contemporary Western interpretation below, inset right), who is sometimes confused with other trumpeting angels, such as Gabriel.

So, there are a lot of variables in the field of angelology and, for a novice, the "angel trail" can became so dismayingly convoluted, one is tempted to move off the subject altogether. On one hand, the general consensus of opinion seems to be that angels were predominately spiritual beings created of light; benevolent, extraterrestrial messengers whose primary goal was to proclaim and/or enforce the will of the One God. At the same time, we get the alternative impression that the celestials were not always so benign and were actually terrifying in many respects: immense, god-like and merciless. Some were referred to as "avenging angels" or the "heavenly host" and these had a distinctly military aspect.

To your left is a diagram from the alleged Book of Raziel - the "medieval grimoire of unknown origin" mentioned briefly in my previous post, which reads: 'He hath given his angels charge concerning thee, that they may keep thee in all thy ways." As it happens, Raziel is a prime example of the beneficent angel who taught humankind languages, agriculture, music, art, and esoteric knowledge. But, in contrast, we learn of Amitiel who, along with archangels Michael and Gabriel, was considered to be an "angel of truth and peace." Unfortunately, a number of Amitiel's noble comrades opposed the creation of humanity and "for this opposition... were burned."

Which brings us to the fallen angels... entities which had somehow "fallen" out of grace with the Godhead - or, perhaps, merely "fell" into the "hell" of the material realm - due to the "sins" of pride, rebelliousness, and the unforgivable crime of mating with humans. We are indoctrinated to perceive these dark angels as "demons" ... the progenitors of all the evils in the world, although, in more enlightened minds, neither pride, rebelliousness nor sensuality are considered diabolical offenses.  Moreover, depending upon the source, life as we know it may not have existed without these offending angels. For instance, according to Gnostic texts, it was due to a "flaw" or a "passion" within the angelic entity, or Aeon, which inadvertently created the material world...