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Around the 6th century CE Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite‘s The Celestial Hierarchy outlined three groups of hierarchically arranged angels. And angels are mentioned in the Jewish Kabbala as inhabiting seven heavenly halls.
Both Jewish and Christian (especially Catholic and Baptist) cosmologies differentiate angels from gods—unlike gods, angels are never worshipped. Instead angels are revered or called upon as beings created by God.
However, the study of world religions is far from easy. And misunderstandings and uncertainties lead many to question this difference. For example, some gods in the Zoroastrian Avesta or the Hindu pantheon are worshipped as deities subservient to or representing a single God. And some casual observers liken these to angels without asking if the character and function of angels and gods could possibly differ.
In a somewhat Christianized Neoplatonism we find that Proclus (4th century CE) adapts ancient Greek philosophy in relation to otherworldly beings:
In the commentaries of Proclus (4th century, under Christian rule) on the Timaeus of Plato, Proclus uses the terminology of “angelic” (aggelikos) and “angel” (aggelos) in relation to metaphysical beings. According to Aristotle, just as there is a First Mover, so, too, must there be spiritual secondary movers.¹
Mystically inclined Christians tend to believe that angels are slightly more dignified than human beings, as evident in the Old Testament:
What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:6-8 NIV).
Gnostics, on the other hand, generally regard human beings as superior to angels. For Gnostics, angels serve God by serving humanity.
Jewish apocalyptic literature tells the story of the fall of the angel Satan – the author of all lies and evil – and his dark angels in terms of their unwillingness to humble themselves before mankind. And Jesus Christ sees Satan fall in the New Testament story:
I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning” (Luke 10:18).
Contemporary beliefs about angels take a different tone from the more traditional understanding. Some writers suggest that the warm, loving presence of angelic beings can be felt in every part of the body, almost like a romantic, sensual relationship.
This idea is found in the 19th century novel Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self by Marie Corelli (1889):
And by and by, as each mellifluous stanza sounded softly on his ears, a strangely solemn tranquility swept over him,–a most soothing halcyon calm, as though some passing angel’s hand had touched his brow in benediction…Ah! ’tis a glittering pathway in the skies whereon men and the angels meet and know each other! …she stretched out her hands toward him: “Speak to me, dearest one!” she murmured wistfully–”Tell me,–am I welcome?” “O exquisite humility!–O beautiful maiden-timid hesitation! Was she,–even she, God’s Angel, so far removed from pride, as to be uncertain of her lover’s reception of such a gift of love? Roused from his half-swooning sense of wonder, he caught those gentle hands, and laid them tenderly against his breast,–tremblingly, and all devoutly, he drew the lovely, yielding form into his arms, close to his heart,–with dazzled sight he gazed down into that pure, perfect face, those clear and holy eyes shining like new- created stars beneath the soft cloud of clustering fair hair!
And yet Corelli also mentions the stunning beauty of evil angels:
His countenance, darkly threatening and defiant, was yet beautiful with the evil beauty of a rebellious and fallen angel.
Throughout history many believe they have been guided by a guardian angel.
St. Basil writes,
Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life (Catholic Catechism, par 336).
The philosopher Leibniz (1646 – 1716) claimed that angels communicate with a universal language, and began to develop a universal symbolic language that would help human beings communicate among universities.²
The Roman Catholic catechism doesn’t place too much emphasis on angels but does affirm their existence as servants of God and man.
From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession (Catholic Catechism, par 336).
Glorifying God, Catholic angels are said to be spiritual powers whose perfection – in contrast to Gnostic belief – surpasses that of human beings. Created by God, Catholic angels are inferior to Christ and the prophets but nearer to God, making them higher than human beings.
As for the contemporary notion that angels and aliens (ETs) are simply different cultural representations of the same basic essence, the American evangelist Billy Graham, among others, insists that angels and aliens are mutually exclusive.³
² Geert Lovink says “Leibniz also philosophized about a computer based on a binary numerical system. In 1679 he wrote, ”Despite its length, the binary system, in other words counting with 0 and 1, is scientifically the most fundamental system, and leads to new discoveries. When numbers are reduced to 0 and 1, a beautiful order prevails everywhere” (See “The Archeology of Computer Assemblage” 1992 at http://www.mediamatic.net/article-8664-en.html).
- Fallen Angel (reeablog.wordpress.com)
- “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” (markatstpauls.wordpress.com)
- When a Politician Lies, an Angel Gets His Wings #tgdn #tcot (politicalbrian.wordpress.com)
- Gaurdian angel? (tiaralewis67.wordpress.com)
- Chuck Missler: Return Of The Nephilim! The Biblical Perspective on the Modern UFO-Alien Phenomena! (socioecohistory.wordpress.com)
Jean A Baudrillard (1929-2007) was a French postmodern theorist who has become popular within academia. Following thinkers like Marshal McLuhan and Roland Barthes, Baudrillard asks whether we can draw a precise line between media hype and reality.
In The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (French: 1991, English: 1995) he discusses the Gulf War as a “media event.” This was controversial at the time, mostly because it seemed to trivialize so many actual human deaths. But some argue that, despite the weird title, Baudrillard doesn’t mock the tragedy. His supporters say that he merely offers an opinion as to how the tragedy fits into the larger picture of global economics, media imagery and what Berger and Luckman called the social construction of reality.”
Over the years Baudrillard developed two central concepts to describe his views: the hyperreal and simulacra. The hyperreal comes from the presence of simulacra. Simulacra are linguistic signifiers totally divorced from their original meanings. Baudrillard argues that, over time, the original meanings of signs gets distorted, or in some cases submerged, only to visibly reemerge in different historical periods. With its reemergence a sign is transformed and takes on new meanings in its new cultural setting. So at some point, the process of signification loses its original meaning and we have simulacra of what were once signs.
Baudrillard sees this process as passing through three phases: First, signs correspond to reality. Sloppy clothing, for instance, once meant that someone was poor and of lower class. Second, signs become subject to industrial production. Photography, for instance, allows the same sign to be reproduced ad infinitum. Third, signs are cut off from the original context and meanings. Sloppy clothes worn by a wealthy rock star, for instance, take on a totally new cultural connotation. And the same “look” is quickly reproduced by industrialists hoping that impressionable teens will try to emulate a pop idol. Thus sloppy clothes are suddenly desirable within certain sectors of the population where previously they had been undesirable and avoided at all costs.
However, this example only goes so far because the wealthy have dressed sloppily on purpose for various effects in other historical periods. The difference for Baudrillard is the mass marketing aspect. And the hyperreal refers not just to a reversal of previous connotations but to an abolishment of a former reality. As such, the line between real and fantasy is blurred. Culture “implodes” because any thinking person fully realizes that what they see on the TV news, for instance, is similar to a carefully scripted movie, with a carefully coordinated set. And that which signs apparently represent is, by thinking people, taken with a grain of salt.
According to Baudrillard, the so-called “respectable” media does the same thing as the vulgar, in your face tabloids. But respectable media does it far more subtly, combining fact and fantasy so smoothly that it’s nearly impossible to differentiate between the two.
The main problem with Baurdrillard’s work lies is his assumption that, at one time in the distant past, signs connoted fixed, uniform meanings. Anyone who reads history will find that different groups have always been in conflict over the meaning of signs, the biblical Golden Calf being one classic example. Also, different individuals within a given group would most likely have variously interpreted the meaning of such a sign. Also,politicians, teachers, and public speakers like the Sophists have always been mixing fact with fiction in order to appear legitimate.
- Week 5; Postmodernism (fahmidachoudhury.wordpress.com)
- French Philosopher Jean Baudrillard Reads His Poetry, Backed By All-Star Arts Band (1996) (openculture.com)
- Jean Baudrillard ~ Cool Memories V (mountainviewranchstore.wordpress.com)
- The Simulacrum (ondmnd.wordpress.com)
- Assignment 3 (incidentalphilosophy.wordpress.com)
- Philosophy with: Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulations (thevaliens.com)
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Cults and Religions – What’s the difference?
Many debate the differences between religion and cults. Some say there’s no difference. In other words, religions are cults and cults are religions. But this kind of thinking arguably doesn’t do justice to the complexities of faith and the supernatural.
One difference seems to be that, in a cult, a charismatic leader is undeservedly glorified. Some say that this would make Abraham, Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Buddha and Mahavira cult leaders. But cults also display a relatively short longevity (after the leader dies, the cult dwindles away). This didn’t happen in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Jainism. So they can’t be called cults by that standard.
Another difference is that cults typically isolate new members from their families and unbelievers. Religions tend to be less drastic, with most (not all, mind you) accepting interfaith relationships.
Steven Hassan, an expert on cults, says
Since all destructive cults believe that the ends justify the means, they believe themselves to be above the law. As long as they believe that what they are doing is “right” and “just,” many of them think nothing of lying, stealing, cheating, or unethically using mind control to accomplish their ends. They violate, in the most profound and fundamental way, the civil liberties of the people they recruit. They turn unsuspecting people into slaves. ¹
Others say the difference between religions and cults is a matter of degree, especially with those religions and cults that attract, institutionally legitimize and reproduce authoritarian personality types and the legalistic beliefs and structured practices that these individuals participate in.
In these instances, religious or cultic affiliation apparently provides a convenient means for the psychologically immature to overlook unresolved emotional issues. Accordingly, some critics of religion maintain that religious affiliation provides a safe but essentially cowardly means for unleashing centuries of culturally and perhaps genetically inherited anger onto those who don’t wish to sacrifice their free will to the dictates of an institution. These critics say that most religious institutions must incorporate (or reject) new developments within the context of their limiting teachings and traditions.
This too, seems somewhat simplistic. For religious believers will often say they are fully choosing to cooperate with God’s will as progressively revealed to them within their particular religious organization. Apparently there’s a richness in their spiritual life that the secular critics just don’t get. And individuals belonging to orgqanizations seen by outsiders as cults often say the same thing. “You don’t understand…”
This can make it difficult to tell the difference between a religion and a cult. Meanwhile, many new religions are cropping up. And some say they’re nothing more than cheap covers created by creepy masterminds aiming to get tax breaks on donations made by gullible believers.
When in doubt, draw a chart
One of the definitions for “cult” in Merriam-Websters dictionary is: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents.”
The following chart compares some of the main beliefs and practices found within religions and cults. This is not the final word. The items in each column don’t universally apply and many of the distinctions made in this chart are debatable. In keeping with the classical sociologist Max Weber, however, this chart offers ideal types.
Ideal types are generalized constructs. They don’t provide precise definitions and they’re not comprehensive. But they are thought-provoking. And that’s their main purpose.
Above chart elaborates on many sources, including Gregg Stebben’s Everything You Need to Know About Religion (The Pocket Professor, Denis Boyles ed., New York: Pocket Books, 1999: 25-26).
¹ Steven Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control, Rochester: Park Street Press, 1988, p. 36.
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Most religious and mythological traditions attest to the reality of demons. For the most part, demons are regarded as dark, evil spiritual beings whose sole purpose is to wreak havoc on individuals and the world.
In Hinduism, demons appear in the Puranas as Rakshakas (evil beings capable of shape-shifting) and tramp souls. Also in Hinduism the, at one time, god-like asuras of the Vedas devolve into demonic spirit beings which, the mystic Sri Aurobindo says, try to place false and harmful ideas into the minds of impressionable, vulnerable human beings.
In Tibetan Buddhism, immediately after a person dies a priest reads the Tibetan Book of the Dead aloud over the dead body, instructing the departed soul how to avoid different spiritual lights and deceptions that demonic beings use to try to trick the deceased into falling into another earthly incarnation. And Mahayana Buddhism portrays many hells, each presided over by horrific entities
In China demons are thought to be able to inhabit dead bodies and haunt various places, both inside and out.
Demons in China… are capable of animating dead bodies, haunting cemeteries, cross roads, and the homes of relatives. Some live in Hades…others inhabit the air. Many are hungry ghosts, the spirits of those who have had no proper burial or who have no decendants to feed them sacrifices.¹
Traditional Roman Catholicism doesn’t envision the demon in terms of a psychoanalytic, physiological id or Jungian shadow archetype, as is fashionable in some circles today. Instead, traditional Catholicism makes no bones about the belief in demons. The Prayer Against Satan and The Rebellious Angels, published in 1961 by order of H. H. Pope Leo XIII refers to various “spirits of wickedness,” “diabolical legions” and “infernal invaders” that are to be driven away with the help of this solemn prayer.
Contemporary Catholicism, however, is incorporating secular and psychiatric perspectives on demons, but arguably in a clunky manner that seems to conform to ancient and medieval styles of analyzing issues. This shouldn’t be surprising as certain aspects of Catholic theological discourse borrow from Aristotelian and Thomist analytical categories and modes of analysis. And as history suggests, deeply entrenched patterns of thought and practice usually take time to be positively redirected.
In secular society alleged demons are often described as nothing more than a product of the imagination, hallucinations, an arrested or disturbed personality, mutated chromosomes, or the much debated idea of chemical imbalances. Along these lines the Catholic Catechism makes a sharp distinction between “the presence of the Evil One,” on the one hand, and current understandings of mental illness on the other:
The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.²
In contrast to the arguably underdeveloped either/or perspective outlined above, a more productive and responsible approach would intelligently consider different perspectives — physiological, psychological, cultural, transpersonal and spiritual — using as many of the analytical tools that are available to us in the 21st century.
Having said that, we should also keep in mind the very real possibility that God could permit a fundamentally good and ‘well adjusted’ person to be afflicted by evil, as we find, for instance, in the Old Testament Book of Job.
Related Posts » Aliens, Alien Possession Theory, Anathema, Angels, Avesta, Bodhi Tree, Bosch (Hieronymus), Christianity, Discernment, Fallen Angels, Hero, Jinn, Lilith, Madness, Mandala, Michael (St.), Miracles, Occam’s razor, Possession, Psychosis, Rakshakas, Shaman, Spiritual Attack, UFO, Underworld
¹ S. G. F. Brandon, A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, 1971, p. 230.
² Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1673.
- Audio of exorcism performed in Germany, 1976 (NoiseMadeMeDoIt.com)
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Elohim is a modern and ancient Hebrew word that denotes god or gods, making it grammatically singular or plural.
According to Catholic teaching, the fact that Elohim has a plural form doesn’t mean that it points to polytheistic understanding of God. It occurs over 2,500 times in the Old Testament.
The term Elohim is also used by Raelians to depict apparently all-wise, loving aliens whom adherents believe created mankind.
- אלוהים (Elohim) (eliezer40.com)
- He Says Concerning Himself “I am the Son of Elohim” (guapotg.wordpress.com)
- God, Elohim (hoagiestyle.wordpress.com)
In the popular sense of the term, the idea of the fallen angel denotes something gone wrong with a person or with a purely spiritual being who freely chooses to reject and, therefore, oppose God’s will.
Myths, stories and artistic representations about fallen angels abound. John Milton (1608 – 1674) in Paradise Lost imagines legions of Satanic angels who rebel against God. Massive wars break out, and St. Michael leads the Lord’s Angels, who must overcome ingenious contraptions built by Satan and his fallen army. While St. Michael is prominent in the battle, the final victory is reserved for Christ. So St. Michael stands aside as Jesus defeats the evil army.
Traditionally, we find the notion of the fallen angel in Jewish and Christian lore, and some argue that a very similar idea is found in Hinduism. For in Hinduism the asuras are described as benevolent spiritual beings in the Vedas that devolve in subsequent Hindu scripture to become demons.
In Islam the personification of evil is Shaytan. In the Koran God commands Iblis to bow down before Adam and serve mankind but through his pride Iblis refuses. God allows Iblis to tempt mankind until Judgement Day, at which time he will be cast into hell. In Islamic thought Iblis is often seen as the master jinn, the head of demons allowed to torment humanity. But there is no concept of the “fallen angel” in the Islamic tradition.
To this coolguymuslim adds:
There is no such thing as a fallen angel in Islam. No doubt, in Islam, Iblis a.k.a. Satan is a jinn and he is most evil. However at the same time, he never is nor was an angel. Angels in Islam do not have free will and they cannot disobey God. In terms of Iblis, he used to be a rightous slave of God so much so that he was elevated to the level of angels before he refused to bow down, however, he was never an angel. Jinn, on the other hand, do possess free will and there are good and evil jinn just as there are good and evil humans.¹
Some believe that the powerful “Sons of Man” mentioned in the Old Testament are Fallen Angels. And some contemporary writers believe that aliens are really fallen angels (while others say they are not).
In the fictional Star Wars films, fallen Jedi - like Darth Vader – could be taken as a rough parallel to the idea of fallen angels, mostly because both good and “dark side” Jedi possess paranormal powers and psychic abilities.
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