Sunday, February 20, 2011

On Macrobes Part II: Angels

Part one of my series on macrobes can be found here.

Christianity has always had a complex relationship with the macrocosm. From its Jewish origins it recognized the complex sphere of the invisible world and the need to approach it with caution. Unfortunately this led to polar extremes when considering macrobes: In many circumstances it dismissed these beings as mere demons, denying them any positive attributes. In other cases it attempted to reincorporate the hierarchy of the invisible world into an angelic choir. Despite the beliefs of Christians and non-Christians alike that the faith is completely opposed to any macrobic contact, angels have often provided apt subversion to whatever mandates may be applied to divination at the time. One of the most common types of divination in the Christian tradition are encounters with a guardian angel, a concept derived from both the Greek tradition of daimons as well as those of older pagan faiths.

"Guardian angels derived from the Neoplatonism and, along with other classes of angels, became part of the Christian dogma at the Council of Nicaea (AD 325). But, long before this, the ancient Greeks believed that individuals were attached at birth to a daimon who determined, wholly or in part, their destiny."
(Daimonic Reality, Patrick Harpur, pg. 38)

Some of the very earliest Christian sects were strong proponents of the guidance of angels.

"Like the gift of the Spirit or the ideal of virginity, this angelic presence was not unknown to some of the Christians' Jewish contemporaries. In the sect whom we know in the Dead Sea scrolls, the presence of angels had already become a lively feature of community life. Also expecting the end of the world, the first Christians had a strong sense of angelic companionship. Here, their belief in 'epiphany' differed scarcely from the simple Lystrans'. When Peter escaped from prison and was reported to be at the door in Jerusalem, the Apostles could not believe it: they thought that it must be his angel. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, Christians could be told 'to show love unto strangers: for thereby, some have entertained angels unawares.' As in Homer or in the Old Testament, so in Christian company there was no knowing who an uninvited guest might be. In the epistles, the Christians' type of experience begins already to be defended and defined against false imitations. The author of 'Peter's' second letter assures the reader that he himself witnessed the 'glorious appearance in power of Jesus,' heard the heavenly voice and was present at the Transfiguration: he was not relying on mere fables. Among the Colossians, by contrast, there were people who trusted other visions, worshipping angels and 'vaunting the things which they have crossed the threshold and seen...' Whatever their identity, these people were reproached in language which echoed contemporary pagan cult. Paul's words for 'crossing the threshold' is the word visitors who 'entered' a temple like Claro's and penetrated the tunnels. The 'angels' are perhaps the pagan 'angels' who had long been worshipped near Colossae inhabiting its local springs and waterfalls, seats, eventually, of the Christian angel Michael."
(Pagans and Christians, Robin Lane Fox, pg. 380)

Despite the daimon's similarity to the lower levels of angels (where the guardian ones reside) suspicion and polarization has always followed macrobic beings in the Christian tradition.

"Christianity's chief method for getting rid of the daimons was to demonize them. This process began with the earliest of the New Testament writings, the epistles of St. Paul; '... the things which the gentiles sacrifice,' said Paul reproachfully, 'they sacrifice to the devils, and to God.' The Greek word he used for devils was daimonia: daimons. At a stroke, the host of the intermediate beings recognized by all pagan peoples everywhere were stigmatized as demons in the service of Satan (diabolos). At best, the complex daimonic realm such as the one revered by Greco-Roman polytheism was subsumed under the Christian angelic realm; and all the old daimons were, of course, classed with the demonic angels who had been cast out of heaven along with Satan.

"The Christian idea of angels derived from the daimons of neighboring, competing doctrines, such as Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, which were condemned as heretical. At first, since Christianity imagined its angels as having bodies of air and light, its demons were supposed to have similarly ethereal bodies which, according to St. Augustine, gave them extraordinary powers of perception and enabled them to move through the air at extraordinary speeds. However, over the centuries, they shed their bodies and became purely spiritual...

"In all this we see the polarizing tendency of Christianity which removes the category of intermediary from daimons and makes them either purely spiritual or physical, compelling them the while to be in both cases literal beings. This literalizing drive is the same as that found among modern students of apparitions, especially ufologists. For them, there is no alternative to the proposition that aliens and the like are either literally real or else spirits and phantoms -except that nowadays, of course, even the category spirit has been all but abolished, leaving a choice between literally real and purely illusory, 'all in the mind.' Thus, whereas aliens have often been seen as updated versions of fairy-like entities, their true ancestors may well be instead the Christian angels and demons who also inhabit the 'lower air' and divide sharply into good and evil, just as the aliens seem to. Fairies do not divide neatly in this way. True to their daimonic nature, they represent a third reality, remaining both spiritual and physical. They may inhabit the air, but are more likely to be terrestrial, adopting an aerial form on occasions. They are ambiguous at all times, benevolent and malign, but never simply demonic, purely angelic."
(Daimonic Reality, Patrick Harpur, pgs. 51-53)

Based on the track record of angelic encounters (which will be examined further below), the medieval perception of fairies may be more apt than either those of angels and demons. But first, let us briefly examine the origins of angels before we delve to deeply into their acts.

The development of angels in Judaism as we now know them was gradual. Some have theorized that the original Biblical patriarchs were polytheistic. Hints of this can be found in the Bible itself, such as the beginning of Genesis 1:26, which states: "God said, 'Let us make Man in our own image, after our likeness..." Archaeologist David Rohl states:

"Note the use of the plural in God's words: 'Let us make Man in our own image -in the likeness of ourselves.' Indeed, one of the words for 'God' in Genesis is Elohim which is itself a plural (the singular being El). The primeval god of Genesis has many aspects which manifest themselves, outside the biblical tradition, in the form of numerous deities, each with its own attributes -sky, earth, water, etc."
(Legend: The Genesis of Civilization, pg. 206)

With the rise of monotheism a new heavenly order was devised with the one creator god at the head and various levels of angels in  descending hierarchy that branched Earth with the heavens. The gods of the Old Testament became angels and are mentioned quite frequently therein, but typically in the most vague fashion. In the Jewish tradition the first real attempt to devise an order of angels occurred in the Book of Enoch, one of the most notorious Apocrypha texts. Despite numerous attempts to suppress it I Enoch would have an enormous influence on the Abrahamic faiths as well as the occult and ufology. It is here the Seven Archangels are first described (and named), as well the fall of the Watchers and the fathering of the Nephilim. One of the earliest illusions to the forth coming 'son of God' is made in Enoch, as well hints of space travel, and the names of various fallen angels.

This has led to much speculation surrounding the Book of Enoch as well as Enoch himself. According to the Bible Enoch "...walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). In the third Book of Enoch (which was a much later addition, and likely written by the kabbalist Rabbi Ishmael) it is claimed that Enoch was transformed into the angel Metatron, scribe of God. Metatron is also sometimes equated with Hermes, the Greek messenger and scribe of the gods. More on that below.

The Book of Enoch has also earned an odd place in modern ufology. I will not delve into that here, but for those interested in more details on this account, check here.

Anyway, the Hebrews and later Christians developed rather complex orders of angels. In the Kabbalistic tradition the angels were divided into ten separate choirs consisting of Chayot, Ophanim, Erelim, Hashmallim, Seraphim, Malakhim, Elohim, Bene Elohim, Cherubim, and Ishim.

The Christian tradition was a bit different and seems to have had a little more uncertainty in the order. Essentially the angelic hosts were divided into three separate spheres with three separate classes of angels in each sphere. The top sphere, closets to God, consisted of the Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the Thrones. The second sphere consisted of Dominions, Virtues, and Powers. The final sphere, with dealt directly with humanity, featured the Principalities, the Archangels, and the regular angels. This is in stark contrast to the Book of Enoch, which claims the Archangels (or at least four of the seven) are closest to God. Some have argued there is a difference between Archangels and archangels, the lower case versions overseeing Earthly affairs while the upper case variety deal with the Cosmic. More information on the angelic hierarchy can be found here.

Before leaving this topic I would like to briefly address the appearance of some of these upper level angels. While it is generally assumed that the appearance of angels is quite pleasing to mortals, the First Sphere would seemingly put this assumption to the test. The Seraphim are described as burning six winged beings closely associated with serpents. In some traditions Metatron is reckoned to be a member of the Seraphim -This is especially interesting if Metatron can be linked to Hermes, a god closely associated with the serpent.

Elsewhere there are the Thrones, described as a 'wheel-within-a-wheel', their rims covered with hundreds of eyes. Then there are the cherubim, even more monstrous in appearance:

"Two cherubim are posted at the eastern gate of Eden. These are not pretty pink babes with fluffy wings but terrifying beasts -part feline and part bird of prey. They are otherwise described as great winged creatures [I Kings 6:27] and are associated with the 'Fiery Flashing Sword' [Genesis 3:24]. They protect the Garden of Eden from intruders who might attempt to enter Eden from the east to gain access to the tree of life. The word cherub comes from Babylonian karibu -the word used to describe huge winged guardians which flank the gateways into temples. The Bible informs us that in later times the Ark of the Covenant was protected by two such cherubim as it rested within the holy of hollies in the Jerusalem temple. The origins of these fearsome guardians of the forbidden places is difficult to establish, but, in biblical terms at least, they first appear as the protectors of Eden's eastern gateway immediately after Cain's exile from the Garden. Are they simply a demonic creation of the storytellers or something rather more tangible, perhaps even historical? There are several examples of mythological creatures whose image and character have been created out of the mundane activities of humankind. In my view it is probable that we are dealing here with the memory of a wild, warlike tribe which once dwelt in this region and which worshipped a giant bird of prey such as the eagle or falcon. Their shamans may have worn head-dresses decorated with the headsested within the holy of hollies in the Jerusalem temple. The origins of these fearsome guardians of the forbidden places is difficult to establish, but, in biblical terms at least, they first appear as the protectors of Eden's eastern gateway immediately after Cain's exile from the Garden. Are they simply a demonic creation of the storytellers or something rather more tangible, perhaps even historical? There are several examples of mythological creatures whose image and character have been created out of the mundane activities of humankind. In my view it is probable that we are dealing here with the memory of a wild, warlike tribe which once dwelt in this region and which worshipped a giant bird of prey such as the eagle or falcon. Their shamans may have worn head-dresses decorated with the heads of the birds and with trailing plumage covering their long coats like giant wings. The telling of the tale through an extended process of oral tradition gradually led to this powerful shamanic image becoming itself the visualisation of the guardians of Eden -the carriers of the 'fiery flashing sword' -rather than the people who bore the creature as their emblem."
(Legend: The Genesis of Civilization, David Rohl, pg. 58)

As with most macrobes, there are ties to entheogens. Since we're already on the topic of shamans, this would be a good place to address this subject. During the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert (after fleeing Egypt) they ate of a substance known as manna, which they baked into bread. This 'bread' was said to be the food of angels, and has thus been called angel's bread from time to time. Some have theorized this angel's bread had a very special secret ingredient.

"The numerous descriptions sometimes speak of some edible natural occurrence, sometimes of something more like 'bread.' But no ordinary food was this MN, even though it 'nourished' the Israelites for forty years through the desert. First, let us note its supernatural powers as an entheogen. Manna was primordial in origin, one of the ten objects called into being in the twilight of the Sabbath of Creation. And its source is from the realm of the gods. It was 'heaven's grain,' ground by angels, as food for the saintly. And it conferred special abilities, fittingly called the 'bread of the mighty,' for those who ate it became themselves angels in strength. It could even resurrect the dead back to life. Nor was it material sustenance, but Holy Spirit, as in the Eucharist in the Gospel of Thomas, for those who ate of it had no need to relieve themselves.

"The metaphors that describe it are all easily recognized as the Soma of the Brachmanes. It is even possible that the Greek word amanites itself, i.e., Amanita, which has no Indo-European etymology... was assimilated from the Hebrew man; amanites does not occur in Greek before the Hellenistic period, although it became the common word for 'mushroom' in modern Greek as manitari."
(Apples of Apollo, Ruck, Staples, and Heinrich, pg. 197)

The consumption of magic mushrooms would certainly make Rohl's theory of early shamans severing as the basis of cherubim more plausible. It would also go a long way to explain how contact was first made with the angelic hosts, but I digress..

And now, to briefly recap several pagan traditions. As previously noted, the Greeks had an entity similar to the Christian guardian angel known as a daimon. But the Greeks were hardly the only culture to possess angelic like beings in their myths. Sumeria, the world's oldest civilization, is also the first to depict winged humans. Zoroastrianism has a concept of angels and demons very similar to the Christian angelology. In this case the angels are referred to as yazatas while the demons are called daevas. The yazatas have a hierarchy of archangels, six in number, known as Amesha Spenta. Egypt also likely had a strong influence on the Judo-Christian concepts of angels. Many Egyptian gods are of course depicted with wings. The complex hierarchy of Egyptian gods may have influenced the same kind of angelic order the later Abrahamic faiths developed. A fine run down of angels through the ages can be found here.

I must also mention a certain winged god (at least around the sandals!) that is also of enormous importance to the Greek and Egyptian Mystery Schools. In the Abrahamic faiths angels server as messengers for God. In the Greek pantheon the gods had one particular messenger -Hermes. I have often suspected that if Macrobes have a patron saint, it would Hermes, the Great Trickster.

"Like Coyote, Raven, and Hare -those North American Indian clowns-cum-culture-heroes -Hermes is a Trickster. It is as difficult for us to countenance Tricksters as it is daimons: our monotheism, whether Christianity or Science, has excluded them. So Hermes is forced to operate from the Underworld, to shadow Christianity in esoteric, 'occult' Gnostic and Hermetic philosophies. As has Latin counterpart, Mercurius, he is the soul of alchemy. He returns to torment scientism with paranormal phenomena and maddening anomalies -all daimons are tricksters, as the fairies are; all are in the pay of Hermes-Mercurius."
(Daimonic Reality, Patrick Harpur, pgs. 166-167)

As previously noted, some speculation has emerged that Metatron was a Judaic adaption of Hermes. Metatron in some traditions is believed to be the same as Enoch, whose name literally means initiated, while Hermes is closely associated with Thoth, the Egyptian scribe. The Greeks believed that Hermes began as a mortal man and was later elevated to godhood. Enoch was a mortal man that in some traditions was transformed into an angel. Enoch, Metatron, Hermes, and Thoth are all closely associated with knowledge, writing, and sacred geometry. But I digress.

Back to the Trickster. Some may object to me classifying angels as Trickster-like figures, but we should first consider several of the more noted angelic encounters of the past two thousand years before dismissing the joke.

Likely the most important angelic conversation to world history is the one that occurred between the Prophet Muhammad and the Archangel Gabriel.

"Muhammad, the prophet who created the religion known as Islam, had a vision of the Angel Gabriel while meditating in a cave in what is now Saudi Arabia. He was forty years old, a tradesman, a pagan, and troubled by hearing Jewish and Christian tradesmen and others around them discussing their respective religions. Monotheism was a new concept, and the year was 610 A.D.

"The vision of Gabriel ignited something in Muhammad's heart and soul. He began preaching a personal and unique amalgam of Jewish, Christian and native Arab mythology and religious and moral principles to anyone who would listen. These principles included better treatment of slaves and women, a life of moderation, a 'surrender' to the one true God (the word 'Islam' means 'surrender'), and other spiritual doctrines. Abstinence from alcohol and the eating of pork were also included...

"As his religion grew in numbers, so did Muhammad grow in political power. At the time of his death, Islam was virtually the state religion of Saudi Arabia. During the next hundred years after his death, Arab armies would give the idea of missionary work a new meaning as they conquered -with fire and sword -nation, after nation..."
(Sinister Forces -Book One, Peter Levenda, pg. 5-6) 

Muhammad was not the only major religious figure to found a religion based on a conversation with an angel. He is also joined by Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.

"But in 1823, Joseph Smith had not yet found a religion. He was a young man desperately seeking buried treasure. On the auspicious day of September 22, 1823 he had a vision of an Angel.

"It was the autumnal equinox, the first day of the zodiacal sign of Libra, and he had repaired to a hill near his home late that night and performed the rituals necessary to invoke spiritual forces. He was gratified to obtain a vision of the Angel Moroni, who directed him to where a certain treasure was buried.

"Smith rushed to the spot indicated by Moroni and began digging. He found the gold plates but, ignoring the Angel's demands that he take the plates and seek no further, he could not resist looking into the hole he had dug to see if there was anything else. Enraged, the Angel took back the plates and told Smith if he wanted to see them again he should return the following year on the same day and at the same time, and he should bring his older brother.

"And the following year, he tried again. The problem, however, was that his older brother had died a few months after the first attempt at the plates. Smith repaired to the same spot at the same time as indicated b Moroni, and Moroni put him off again. All in all it would take three years before -on September 22, 1827 -he would finally be able to see the plates again and to begin transcribing what has become the Book of Mormon.

"The method of transcribing the plates -which, according to the story, were written in a kind of Egyptian hieroglyphic -would seem odd to many Americans but familiar to occultists and those familiar with occult literature. Smith would place his 'shew stone' or 'seer stone' in his hat and then bring his face into the hat so that no light would enter his field of vision. There, with his hands on his knees and staring into his hat, he would begin to dictate the pages of the Book."
(ibid, pg. 35)

Of course numerous saints have conversed with angels over the years, so I will only mention one who also happened to have a curious military history, namely Joan of Arc. From her Wikipedia entry:

"A peasant girl born in eastern France who claimed Divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. She was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried by an ecclesiastical court, and burned at the stake when she was nineteen years old.

"She later testified that she experienced her first vision around 1424 at the age of twelve years, when she was out alone in a field and saw visions of figures she identified as Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, who told her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Rheims for his coronation. She said she cried when they left, as they were so beautiful.[18]"

Like many who followed angelic council, things didn't end especially well for Joan.

One cannot address angelic conversations without mentioning the Elizabethan mage and spy John Dee. Dee is one of the most important ceremonial magicians of the post-Medieval era. Much of the system Dee devised was in turn handed down by angels in a fashion not unlike how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. From Wikipedia:

"In 1581, Dee mentioned in his personal journals that God had sent "good angels" to communicate directly with prophets. In 1582, Dee teamed up with the seer Edward Kelley, although Dee had used several other seers previously.[2] With Kelley's help as a scryer, Dee set out to establish lasting contact with the angels, which resulted, among other things, in the reception of the Enochian or Angelical language.
"According to Dee's journals,[3] Angelical was supposed to have been the language God used to create the world, and which was later used by Adam to speak with God and the angels, and to name all things in existence. After his Fall from Paradise, Adam lost the language and constructed a form of proto-Hebrew based upon his vague memory of Angelical. This proto-Hebrew, then, was the universal human language until the time of the Confusion of Tongues at the Tower of Babel. After this, all the various human languages were developed, including an even more modified Hebrew (which we know as "Biblical Hebrew"). From the time of Adam to the time of Dee and Kelley, Angelical was hidden from humans with the single exception of the patriarch Enoch who, according to the angels, recorded the "Book of Loagaeth" (Speech From God) for humanity. The book was then lost again in the Deluge of Noah."

The Book of Enoch itself is often sited as the source of Dee and Kelley's angelic language yet the Book of Enoch had not been officially rediscovered until the 17th century. Of course, its certainly possible a man with Dee's influence may have obtained such a thing before an official discovery was acknowledged. As an interesting side note, Aleister Crowley used the Enochian system to contact a being known as Aiwass in 1904 in Cairo. This Enochian 'angel' looked remarkably like what would now be described as a grey alien.

So what are we to make of these angelic beings? Countless religious authorities over the years have tried to distinguish them from the daimonic beings that became the demons and devils of the Christian canon, but unsatisfactory. They appear as messengers of truth, yet their messages often bring strife. Their origins predate Judaism and, moving into the 'New Age', they seem as though they will out last Christianity. In a recent poll over half of the American surveyed stated that they felt as though they had been protected by a guardian angel at some point in their life. One in five of these respondents did not consider themselves to be religious:

"More than half of all adults, including one in five of those who say they are not religious, believe that they have been protected by a guardian angel during their life, according to a new survey by Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion.

"The survey polled 1,700 respondents of diverse religious faiths: evangelical Protestants, black Protestants, mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews.

"Researchers found that a belief in guardian angels, affirmed by 55 percent of respondents, is a phenomenon that crosses religious, as well as regional and educational lines. "
Belief in angels is stronger than ever despite the so called 'Magical Revival', the New Age movement, and the rise of Eastern religions in the United States. Despite a slight drop in recent years, more Americans believe in angels in 2007 (75%) than they did in 1994 (72%) according to a Gallup poll. Whatever intention these beings have for us, it would seem that they shall weigh heavy on the popular consciousness for sometime.

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