Countless times, when I was a child, she recited the gentle prayer by my bed: “Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here…” The blurry memories of my first devotions always bring me the image of my mother, by my bed, blessing and wishing me a peaceful sleep. Did I believe then in angels? Certainly! My mother, with much love, seeded them in my head and there they remained for many years. With much curiosity, I even studied the winged beings in my teenage years.
I learned then that there were many kinds of angels; that archangels, cherubim and seraphim were of a higher rank; that their names usually ended in ‘el’ (Gabriel, Michael, Raphael…); that Gabriel was Jewish in the Torah, Christian in the annunciation to Mary, and Muslim when he dictated the Koran; that, except for cherubim and seraphim, angels were not supposed to have wings until sometime in the fourth century a. C. when a few painters started to add them…
They also taught me in school that there were good angels (Gabriel and his comrades) and evil angels (Lucifer and his demons), and that good angels were toward our right hand while the bad ones stayed to the left. (A fascist probably established this sorting: The good people -conservatives, traditionalists, capitalists, theists- are always to the right; the bad ones -socialists, secularists, anarchists, atheists- are to the left).
Who are the angels? Angels are supernatural beings of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) that, after the innovation of Jewish monotheism three millennia ago, replaced, I think, the countless deities that existed in the cults of that time. The replacing lower ‘deities’, it is also my theory, ‘survived’ the divine downsizing to become sacred intermediaries between the heavenly Lord and the earthly humans. The word ‘angel’, in fact, originates from the Latin “angelus” which means “messenger of God”.
Leaving aside far-off traditions and my modern speculations, do angels exist? As it happens with all metaphysical beings, angels are real for their believers. According to a survey by the Center for Religious Studies at Baylor University in Texas, more than half of Americans have received help from their guardian angel at least once in their lives. In other studies, 75 percent of North Americans (gringos and Canadians altogether) and around 85 percent of Asian and African Muslims are convinced of the existence of their corresponding creeds’ angels.
What happens in Latin America? I could not get figures for this region. I must emphasize, however, that south of the Rio Grande a lucrative profession of ‘brokers of brokers’ has emerged, that is, earthly specialists that connect us to the heavenly messengers who, in turn, talk to God. There is a clear duplication of duties in this intervention. However, considering the recognition these worldly agents have gained and the high rates they charge, it is evident that in Central and South America the winged creatures are as popular as soccer players.
Why do we believe in angels? When we open the mind to metaphysics, reason stops; all kind of beliefs, be it spirits, apparitions, astrology, clairvoyance, telepathy or telekinesis, enter our heads. Our predisposition to the ethereal seeded and developed by the culture in which we grow, transforms common logic in a different way of thinking, for which sound assertions and rigorous deductions do not longer apply. Our subconscious projects out the entities of our unfounded faith and we then may see, hear or perceive the associated phenomena.
We cannot get out of absurdity with arguments. “You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place,” wrote Irish writer Jonathan Swift. Only the impartial and detached observation of the contents of our mind and the roots of what is sown in it will allow us to see reality.
Am I still devotee to angels? Not anymore. However, I did not have to rationally stop such belief, I did not have to take thoughtful ruminated decisions to remove them from my head, I did not have to throw angels away; they went off spontaneously. After silencing the mental noises that were so immersed in my redundant ego, Los Angeles in California are about the only ‘angels’ that still remain in my brain.
Houston, November 3, 2014