Angels, Mutants or Aliens?

Archangel

Archangel, one of the founding members of the X-men

The angelic figure has always been popular, from their ancient roots in religion and mythology to today’s pop culture media.  They first started out as incredible other-worldly beings, massive in size and rich in knowledge, and later became human-like beings hard to distinguish from ordinary people as the Bible’s patriarchs and apostles discovered.  As centuries passed, artist added wings and halos, along with a chubby baby likeness.

Recently, modern artists have added features to angels that have given rise to a greater curiosity into the true nature of angels and the roles they play.  The popularity of superheroes and comic culture, as well as the horror and supernatural genres have transformed angels from plump little cherubs into muscled-mutant-supernatural warriors, suiting a more violent and action-orientated audience.

What were they like before?

Apse Mosaic, San Vitale, Ravenna

Apse Mosaic, San Vitale, Ravenna

For many in the Western world, the word ‘angel’ conjures up the image of a winged humanoid, dressed in white and bestowing blessing and news to the human world.  Indeed, this is how many of us recall angels, because our first encounter with them is usually Bible stories, and particularly their role within the nativity story.  Their primary function is as the messengers of God to Man.  As H. C. Moolenburgh explains: “…we have inherited the word ‘angel’.  It comes from a Greek word (angelos) meaning a messenger.  The Hebrew word for angel (malach) means exactly the same: a messenger or an envoy.” (1996, p.56).

He goes on to discuss the way that angels are viewed in public consciousness: “Often they are described as ‘noticeably beautiful’ even though their appearance is not especially effeminate.” (1996, p.48). Indeed, the beautiful appearance of angels is among the few things that rarely do change – whether they are good, evil, or indifferent, they often possess striking features.  This is particularly interesting because in their original incarnation in the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament, angels are described – if at all – according to their power and awe.  Unearthly beauty is a quality rarely mentioned; they are more often fear-inducing creatures than beautiful winged people.

Where did their wings come from?

References to angels are found within the mainstream religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Yet, angels, or divine helpers, were also found within Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian, Egyptian and Greek writings as well, and played a major influence upon the ideas regarding angels within the key religions themselves.  For example, it is well known that ancient Sumerian texts pre-dated the Hebrew book of Genesis, including the idea of the existence of angels.

hermes-image1

Hermes

But where did the original idea come from that angels have wings? Hermes, in the Greek pantheon of gods, served the function of messenger, and was pictured with wings on his heels.  In ancient Egypt, the goddess Nepthys was also winged; reliefs depicting her appear in hieroglyphics in tombs.  Griffins, winged animals with human heads, appear in a very ancient Etruscan tomb, and many other cultures featured winged lions and bulls with human heads; winged creatures were known to the Vikings as valkyries, to the Greeks as horae; in Persia they were fereshta, to the Hindu, apsaras.

However, in Abrahamic traditions, wings were rarely depicted on angels until the time of Emperor Constantine, and did not become popular in angel art until the Renaissance.  Historically, angels who interacted with humans, were seen in a “flesh and blood” form.

Shrouded in mystery…

AA_00590WM

Alien Angel #5

Angels truly are a mystery that summon many questions – firstly, do they even exist at all?  And if so, what exactly are they?  Some believe they are beings of light, others say they are ‘God’s messengers’ or the souls of the deceased that guide us on our life journey.  More controversially, there are those who maintain that there is nothing “godly” about angels, and that they were simply flesh and blood beings from outside earth who perhaps arrived in flying crafts, hence the depiction of wings.

Whatever one thinks, the idea of angels has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions around the world.


Download a FREE SAMPLE of my book:

Beyond The Rabbit Ears

Tuning in a clearer picture of the supernatural with a pop culture twist!

 1421688225554

Influenced By Angels (Part One)

Different, but the same?

Many leading scholars believe that the earliest references of angels can be found within the pre-biblical texts of the Sumerians, which later influenced the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Persians.  Because each of these cultures conquered and enslaved the ancient Israelis, it’s theorized that these Sumerian angel beliefs influenced the Hebrews (Judaism), which in turn were shared with Christianity, and both Judaism’s and Christianity’s teachings of angels later inspired the Islamic beliefs concerning angels.  This, of course, is strongly debated, with opposing sides providing plausible arguments.  Furthermore, you’d be hard pressed to find scholars from the three major religions to fully agree on who influenced who.

Not to limit the idea of angels…

Though called by different names, benevolent spirit beings quite similar to angels can also be found within other religions, mythologies, and lore.  Hinduism has avatars, Buddhism has devas and bodhisattvas, the Greeks, Romans, Norse, and Celts all had their specific terms likewise.  In addition, numerous tribal cultures from all parts of the world passed on oral traditions of spirit beings, guardian spirits and guides.  All of which have comparable functions to biblical and mythical angels as helpful spirit messengers, and protectors.  What were the cultures of antiquity and the Middle Ages trying to describe?  Were they speaking of angels in general, or something else akin to angels, or both?

Where did angels come from?

Where did they come from, how did they originate?  No one really knows for certain.  The ancient Hebrew writers suggested angels were created by God (Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 148:2,5).  In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul took these suggestions to a new level with the bold claim that “by him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities…” (Colossians 1:16-17).  Theologians believe he was speaking of angels, identifying them as created beings, and clearly stating there are certain orders of angelic classes.  I will address types and levels soon.

Even though the Bible mentions angels at least 108 times in the Old Testament and 165 times in the New Testament, the time of their creation is never definitively specified.  It is most probable that it occurred in connection with the creation of the heavens in Genesis 1:1, leading some to theorize that God created the angels immediately after he had created the heavens and before he created the earth.  The reason for this theory is because a pre-Genesis biblical text states, “the sons of God [angels] shouted for joy” when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7).

Real experiences!

In modern times, many people claim to have had “real” experiences with angels, mostly of a spiritual nature, and believe that their existence is important to us as human beings.  They have been commonly perceived as spiritual messengers of a high nature, for which traditions and beliefs usually differ as to whether angels have their own free will, or are only allowed to follow their Creator’s will.

Although many believe that angels can have various appearances, depending on a people’s culture, tradition or belief, they do share one common denominator – angels generally take on the shape of human beings (minus the wings, of course).  Psychologists have suggested the reason for this is, many people believe angels were previously humans, who have since taken on angelic form to protect and guide their surviving relatives.  In other words, they believe their deceased mother, father, or loved one is now a “guardian angel” assigned to specifically watch over them.

The most popular concept…

Almost every religious discipline has developed concepts with various similarities that make the belief in angels popularly held across all cultures.  Most of these concepts revolve around a common principle of a “messenger” asked to do the work of a deity.  Without dispute, the most popular concepts of angels are widely held within the Judeo-Christian traditions.  This is strongly evidenced in biblical passages that lend proof of their existence as messengers of God.

Bottom line:

Angels have been an active part of human history for a very, very, long time… and, continue to be… in both visible and invisible ways.  Virtually every culture in every part of the planet has acknowledged their presence and formed opinions and beliefs about them.  Ancient records and modern accounts testify that they regularly appear and disappear, while providing protection and guidance for human beings.  But… why?  For what reason are they protecting us, and offering guidance and support?  Do they have a certain purpose or agenda in mind?  And… most importantly, to what extent is humanity influenced by their presence?


noah movie falling angels

If you liked this article, you’ll definitely like my recent book.

Download a FREE SAMPLE to read more!

Be watching for “Influenced By Angels” (Part Two).  Coming Soon!

Guardians Of Humanity

Belief in benevolent angels who protect and serve humanity is widespread around the world.  Sculptures, figurines, pictures and paintings of winged-super-human-beings portrayed in protective roles are prevalent in almost every culture.  The reason for this is simple, the three major religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) all share a common belief in angels, and so do many of the lesser religions.  To no ones surprise, there are numerous differences and similarities, especially when it comes to guardian angels.  So, what does the population of earth believe about angels?  Here is a very basic rundown of the most popular ideas:

Judaism:

Angels (from αγγελōς = messenger, Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ) are generally viewed as superhuman beings dwelling in heaven, who occasionally reveal to man God’s will and execute his commands.  In one form or another, the belief in angels appears in the earliest stages of Jewish history with Abraham being stopped by an angel from sacrificing his son Isaac.  This ancient belief continues to live in the Jewish spiritual world with the common belief that Michael is the guardian angel and protector of Israel.  To learn more, click here: Angel Types In Judaism.

Christianity:

With the roots of Christianity closely linked to Judaism, it comes as no surprise that Christians hold angels in high esteem. As in Judaism, angels played vital roles in many events viewed with great importance by Christians.  It was the angel Gabriel who appeared to Mary and told her of how she was chosen by God to give birth to his son Jesus.  The New Testament also states that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was announced by angels.  Christians generally believe angels are God’s special messengers and ambassadors to humanity, each person has a special guardian angel to protect and serve them, and there are both good and bad angels currently working in the earth today.  To learn more, click here: Angel Types In Christianity.

Islam:

Angels are also prominent in the Islamic faith, one of their basic articles of faith being the belief in angels.  Muslims believe that each person has four guardian angels, which they call “Malaaika” (Arabic = messengers).  Two angels are tasked to keep a record of their assigned person’s good actions, and the other two record the bad deeds.  Angels in Islam are also responsible for assigning souls to newborns, taking care of the environment, delivering special messages to humanity, and more. It is believed that angels visit earth daily.  The Much-Frequented House is a sacred heavenly sanctuary above the Kaaba, the black cube in the city of Mecca.  Every day 70,000 angels visit it and leave, never returning again, followed by another group of 70,000 angels daily – every day of every month of every year unending.  Check out this video of a supposed angel sighting above the Kaaba: Angels Coming From The Sky.


One main difference between the Islamic and Christian/Jewish views on angels, is that for Muslims, it is not possible for angels to fall from grace, as they cannot commit sin.  Christian and Jewish views generally recognize demons to have once been angels that committed sins, fell from grace, and were cast from heaven along with their leader, the former archangel Lucifer.  Muslims do not believe that Lucifer was once an angel created from light.  They believe he is a “Jinn” – beings, both good and bad, created from smokeless fire, inhabiting a parallel unseen world.  For more on Islamic beliefs about angels, check this out: Reality of Angels.  For a general comparison of Christian vs. Muslim beliefs, click here:  Christianity vs. Islam.


Hinduism:

Hindus may not specifically refer to angels but they do recognize them as “devas” (shining ones).  These entities are responsible for natural elements such as water, earth, wind, and fire.  Hindus also believe that every living person has two guardian divas/angels.  While angels are viewed as divine workers in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, they are not worshipped.  However, the distinction between divas/angels and the lesser avatars are far more blurred within Hinduism, leading many to worship their personal guardians.  To learn more about Hindu beliefs, check this out: Angels In The Bhagavad Gita

Zoroastrianism:

Followers of Zoroastrianism (estimated at just around 200,000 worldwide), also believe that each one of us has a guardian angel, a “Fravashi” that protects and guides us.  To learn more about angels in Zoroastrianism, click here: Zoroastrianism & Angels.

Mormonism:

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, angels are heavenly beings in human form that help spread the work and word of God on earth.  Mormonism was established after an angel allegedly appeared to its founder Joseph Smith.  Mormons do not have a specific doctrinal statement about guardian angels, however they generally accept the idea that every person has one guardian angel protecting them.  Mormonism teaches that angels are not winged beings, rather people in their spirit/resurrected state.

Buddhism:

Buddhists generally believe in angels as a form of energy or light or highly evolved beings (devas) who may visit people in dreams.  In Buddhism there is no true guardian angels except for deceased family members who have reached nirvana.  If they so chose, they can stay behind as “kami” to protect and offer guidance for their loved ones.  This concept is mostly held by Buddhists who practice the Japanese “action-religion” Shinto.

Baha’i

In the Baha’i faith, angels are viewed as powerful celestial beings who reveal God’s “abounding grace” to humanity.  They’re described as “blessed beings” that have been released from the “chains of self,” and transcended this world to take on their angelic attributes.  These “blessed beings” are largely hailed as guardians and spirit guides.


 abstract_angel

Abstract Angel Depiction