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)