angel fatigue: it’s lonely at the top

Rewards and air miles. frequent flyers.Who knows who you’ll cross flight paths with up in the heavens.  Its a difficult issue in dealing with   whether ,and how many other spirits in the celestial hierarchy are good or evil, fallen or relatively upright upright, battle worn and dwellers of Heaven or Hell. Urban legend says this is an  especially baffling problem that tends to leave them wandering about in an almost continual and cloud of unknowing. Who would have thought? …

The words of the scriptures are fairly evident. Clear, austere and pure. God’s emissaries speak the language of men; they utter a plain, powerful message; they have the shape natural for human beings, or else they are left undescribed. How is it then, that whenever we hear the word “angel” we see a being with wings?  And with graceful shapes, flowing robes, floating hair, a kindly gaze, almost sexless and with a hint of the feminine? Like in the Annunciation where the angels are like maids of honor sent to pay homage to a princess. The angel does not come into Mary’s room, but flies down from heaven on a pair of birdlike wings. Call it art of the spectacle where Christian art borrows from Jewish mysticism and Greek imagery with its wings of victory, eros and genius and slips in a guardian angel to barter the soul in the heavens above.

Dali. Temptation of Saint Anthony. Read More:

…As I begin these reflections, I am drawn to a story told by Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher and storyteller. I have condensed his story, “The Angel and the World’s Dominion,” for the purposes of this article, believing it has much to tell us about Christian spirituality and the process of spiritual formation for leaders.

There was a time when the hand of the Lord, who has the power to create and destroy all things, unleashed an endless torrent of pain and sickness over the earth. Even the legions of heaven were not immune to the hovering suffering and sadness. In this state of discomfort and confusion, one of the angels, from the goodness of his heart, contended with the Lord and begged God to place the administration of the earth in his hands for a year’s time, that he might lead it to an era of well-being. The angelic bands trembled at this audacity. God, however, looked at the suppliant with great love and announced his agreement….

Rembrandt. Abraham and the Angels. ---The transformation of *ha-satan* in the Old Testament into Satan in the New, and the conflicting notions that arose as a consequence, are pointed up by Bernard J. Bamberger in his _Fallen Angels_: The classic expositions of the Jewish faith have implicitly or explicitly rejected the belief in rebel angels and in a Devil who is God's enemy.... The Hebrew Bible itself, correctly interpreted, leaves no room for a belief in a world of evil powers arrayed against the goodness of God.... Historical Christianity, on the other hand, has consistently affirmed the continuing conflict between God and Satan. This continuing conflict between God and Satan, one might add, is little more than a recrudescence, with modifications, of the dualistic system that Christianity (along with Jewish sectarians of the post-Biblical era) inherited from Zoroastrianism, ...Read More:

For the early Christians, the beauty of the body was a snare and a delusion if it was not the outward semblance and only the semblance of spiritual holiness. But the Renaissance changed the existing convention, in part it was a technical trip that reflected the advancement of the arts and in part it expanded the poetic narrative with more liberal identities including the introduction of superhuman powers. Then the evil angels became an aesthetic with Milton and his Faust, fallen angels, distortions of dignity and an expansion on Dante’s febrile imagination.

…And so a year of joy and sweetness visited the earth. The shining angel poured the great profusion of his merciful heart over the anguished children of the earth. The groans of the sick and dying were no longer heard in the land. The earth floated through a fecund sky that left her with a burden of new vegetation. When summer was at its height, people moved singing through the full, yellow fields; never had such abundance existed in living memory. At harvest time the storage bins were overflowing with the bounteous crops.

Boucher. The Toilet of Venus----Physicality was effaced from representations of the ideal woman, who was defined by her angelic transcendence of all corporeal desires. A particular kind of language evolved to describe domesticity, a style of thought and speech characterized by exalted religious rhetoric and euphemism. Women's enclosure, in Fraser Harrison's view, "was ensured by investing it with all the majesty of a divine appointment." The image of the domestic woman was turned into a verbal and visual icon. Home in this discourse became a "temple" or "sanctuary," and woman its guardian angel, vestal virgin, or priestess. "Haz . . . de tu casa," Sinués de Marco told her readers, "un santuario donde no penetren las borrascas de la vida" (Make . . . your home a sanctuary where the storms of life cannot reach). Read More:

Proud and contented, the shining angel basked in the glory of his own accomplishments, for surely the people of the earth would be enjoying the gifts of prosperity for years to come. But one cold day, late in the year, a multitude of voices rose heavenward in a great cry of anguish. Frightened by the sound, the angel, dressed as a pilgrim, journeyed down to the earth and visited the homes of the earth-dwellers. The people there, having threshed the grain and ground it into flour, had then started baking bread. But, alas, when they took the bread out of the oven it fell to pieces and the taste was unpalatable like disgusting clay in their mouths. They began to curse the Lord of the World, who had deceived their miserable hearts with his false blessing….

---To the Jews of Biblical times the adversary was neither evil nor fallen (the Old Testament knows nothing of fallen angels), but a servant of God in good standing, a great angel, perhaps the greatest. However, he is nowhere named. In Job he presents himself before the Lord in the company of other unnamed "sons of God." There is no question of his being evil or apostate. ... The hassidic rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak of Pzysha, known as the holy Yehudi (d. 1814), makes this clear when he declared that "the virtue of angels is that they cannot deteriorate." See Martin Buber, Tale

the Hasidim... The fact that the adversary challenges God or questions Him does not, *ipso facto*, make the adversary evil or an opponent of God -- just as, when Abraham and Job "put God to the question," they were not, on that account, regarded as evil men, or even as presumptuous men.---Read More:

This is the terror which Jacques Callot depicted in his Temptation of Saint Anthony. Young men, distracted by their new sexual urge, often imagine that the worst affliction of the saints was their enforced celibacy, the worst temptation visions of beautiful naked, accessible women. But the hardest temptation for many saints has been the sense of hopeless terror in the presence of real, powerful, strong-willed, all but ubiquitous evil. And so, in Callots’s picture, as well as in that by Bosch, we see the wretched saint alone, with no church, no sanctuary, no visible companion, surrounded an all but overwhelmed by the forces of unreason and utter disorganization, dominated for a time at least by the Prince of the Powers of the Air.

Callot. Temptation of Saint Anthony. Read More:

…The angel flew away and collapsed at God’s feet crying, “Lord, help me understand where my power and judgment were lacking.” Then God raised his voice and spoke: “Behold a truth which is known to me from the beginning of time, a truth too deep and dreadful for your delicate, generous hands, my sweet apprentice—it is this, that the earth must be nourished with decay and covered with the shadows that its seeds may bring forth—and it is this, that souls must be made fertile with flood and sorrow, that through them the Great Work may be born.”…

Willaim Blake. Casting out of the Rebel Angels.---Whereas in Aristotle the male principle is the spirit and the female the body, reflecting a long association of men with friendship and women with fleshliness, in the discourse of domesticity this canon is reversed. Woman is seen as more spiritual, man more carnal. The analogy between women and angels rested on the belief in the sexlessness, and therefore virtue, perceived as common to both. Purity, defined as lack or control of sexual passion, was the prime quality of the angel of the house. The middle-class angel wife was supposed to love her husband with a mild, unselfish, maternal friendship unsullied by sexual passion; female sexuality was relegated to the lower classes or, if it presented itself in the bourgeoise, pathologized. Read More: image:

…What Buber calls the “Great Work,” I interpret as the spiritual formation and maturation of the human being—that our souls might be “made fertile” in the likeness of Christ, God incarnate.Read More:

The angel was envisaged as a paragon of altruism and abnegation and was always defined in relation to members of the family. In the cliché of the age, reminiscent of the tripartite German formula “Kinder, Kirche, Küche,” the Spanish angel was figured as a feminine version of the holy trinity: “santa y dulce trilogía. Madre, esposa e hija, la mujer es siempre nuestro ángel de la guarda” (sweet and holy trilogy. Mother, wife, and daughter, woman is always our guardian angel). The very idea that a woman might wish to live by or for herself was anathema to the bourgeois ideologues. Woman’s selfless investment of her desires in the family was supposed to counteract the ruling principle of bourgeois society: self-interest. As Barbara Taylor points out, women became the repositories of the moral conscience of the bourgeoisie, for, “having confined all those virtues inappropriate within the stockmarket or the boardroom to the hearts of their womenfolk, middleclass men were then left free to indulge in all those unfortunate vices necessary for bourgeois enterprise.” …

Fragonard. Jean Genet:I felt I was emerging from a cave peopled with marvelous creatures, which one only senses (angels, for example, with speckled faces), and entering a luminous space where everything is only what it is, without overtones, without aura. What it is: useful. This world, which is new to me, is dreary, without hope, without excitement. Read More:

Sweet submission was another of the angel’s important characteristics: in the Victorian Sarah Ellis’s memorable phrase, it was woman’s highest duty to “suffer and be still.” Passivity was constantly enjoined on women in the conduct literature: “El valor del hombre es activo, el de la mujer pasivo” (Man’s valence is active, woman’s passive). The related concepts of passivity, patience, and suffering became identified and focused on the feminine ideal, for the angel was constructed as patient in the sense of being both endurer and sufferer: “el hombre trabaja y la mujer padece” (man works and woman suffers). Mrs. Ellis’s masochistic fascination with the concept of the ideal woman as passive and suffering is echoed in the numerous works of Sinués de Marco. For this novelist, woman’s destiny, whatever her station, was that of martyr: “hija, esposa o madre, su destino y su misión en la tierra es siempre sufrir y resignarse” (daughter, wife, or mother, her destiny and her mission on earth is always to suffer and resign herself).Read More:

---The family of Amy Winehouse gathered at a north London cemetery on Tuesday to bid farewell to their "angel," three days after the troubled singer was found dead at her home. Some 100 mourners, including Winehouse's producer Mark Ronson and Kelly Osbourne, attended the traditional Jewish funeral that closed with her father Mitch saying: "Good night my angel, sleep tight; Mummy and Daddy love you ever so much."--- Read More:

Talmud claims that Satan was created on the 6th day of Creation . Through a misreading of Isaiah 14:12, he has been identified with Lucifer. To Aquinas, Satan, as “the first angel who sinned” is not a seraph but a cherub, the argument being that “cherubim is {sic} derived from knowledge, which is compatible with mortal sin; but seraphim is {sic} derived from the heat of charity, which is incompatible with mortal sin” (_Summa_ 1, 7th art., reply obj. 1). In time, according to Jerome, Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, Ambrosiaster, and others, Satan will be reinstated in his “pristine splendor and original rank.” This is also cabalistic doctrine. In secular lore, Satan figures in many works, notably Milton’s _Paradise Lost_, where he is chief of rebels and the “Arch Angel ruin’d”  and in _Paradise Regained_, where he is the “Thief of Paradise” . Also in Vondel’s _Lucifer_; in Dryden’s _The State of Innocence_; and in Goethe’s _Faust_ (where he is represented by Mephistopheles).Read More:

I’ve been around the world
Had my pick of any girl
You’d think I’d be happy
But I’m not
Ev’rybody knows my name
But it’s just a crazy game
Oh, it’s lonely at the top

Listen to the band, they’re playing just for me
Listen to the people paying just for me
All the applause-all the parades
And all the money I have made
Oh, it’s lonely at the top

Listen all you fools out there
Go on and love me-I don’t care
Oh, it’s lonely at the top
Oh, it’s lonely at the top
( Randy Newman, It’s Lonely At The Top )

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