The necessary angel

Why would Modern Man believe in angels? He does, of course, but only in a “poetical” way. He will not let his reason (and he does have some) close to this topic, and will go to the wall before he will confront it. This, paradoxically, might be seen as a favour to the saintly angels, who have this much in common with the fallen ones, that they don’t like to make a scene in public. They are content to be “influencers,” as it were.

This Modern Man can believe in devils, in a less poetical way, but needs to be in a spitting rage first.

In fits of harmlessness, he will believe in God. This is because anyone’s reason, once indulged, will tell him that the “existence of God” is irrefutable. But we draw the line at angels. From the moment they appear, we fear that we are being corruptly lured into “organized religion.” We might have to do inconvenient things, such as kneel.

And this is a paradox, for we are comfortable with everything else being organized. The bureaucracies we form are entirely angel-free.

Consider Michael, Raphael, Gabriel; and Uriel although he isn’t named in the Bible. Their presence isn’t vague. The prophets of the New Testament have no trouble with them, but neither did the prophets of the Old. Jews and Muslims greet them freely, and Christians too, of course; but Modern Man has issues. Yes, he will take them, but only as “figures of speech.”

As Wallace Stevens said, “Philosophy is the official view of Being. … Poetry is the unofficial view.”

My father, who was my model for the “good pagan” (a phrase I lift from Rosalind Murray, 1939), did not object to angels in the least. But he did not accept them in the way Thomas Aquinas did — as beings who will have to be carefully thought through. Papa did accept them as beings, however, until, I think, on his deathbed, he accepted them whole. For he was clutching a Benedict Cross, and that helps.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Michael, “and all angels.” Gabriel and Raphael used to have their own prominent Feasts, but the Church for Modern Man never tries to push it. We get them all over with in the one Mass. Convention, at least English-speaking convention, still almost accepts today’s Michaelmas as the beginning of term. I think it still is, in places like Oxford.

For all we know, we’ll need some angels going forward. (“Wokeness” isn’t working out for us.)

At least, I’ll say that, but I am a notorious reactionary. The Sword of Saint Michael is figurative, at some level, and at another level it is not. It is not something to praise, so much as something that Michael wields, with us figuratively cheering him on, or maybe sometimes cooperating. It is wielded against theĀ evil spirits who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls.



ANNIVERSARY. I started the “Essays in Idleness” precisely eight years ago, as part of my transition from a paid hack, to an unpaid one. Perhaps I should wish these Idleposts a happy birthday.