Saturday, October 9, 2010

Angels & Demons 25: Angels as the Personification of God’s Intrapersonal Communication

Four commentaries ago, I discussed my final Fallen Angel Story. Bereshit Rabbah 8.5 provides an account of the Angel of Truth, who was cast to earth because his conclusion regarding the wisdom of creating man conflicted with God’s. It appeared to some rabbis that the Angel of Truth temporarily became a “fallen angel” because of his opposition to the creation of man. The Bereshit Rabbah account is based on Psalm 85:11-12a. A combat between Mercy and Truth, and Righteousness and Peace is presented as an argument over the creation of man:

“Mercy says, ‘Let him be created; for he does merciful things.’ Truth says, ‘Let him not be created; for he is all lies.’ Righteousness says, ‘Let him be created; for he does righteous things.’ Peace says, ‘Do not let him be created; he is all quarrel.’”

Each contestant in the matter could easily produce evidence to substantiate his claim. Mankind is, of course, merciful-yet-false, righteous-yet-quarrelsome. The Angel of Truth was not lying here; he was being truthful.

Not all rabbis agree, by the way, that this is a Fallen Angel Story. The common interpretation understands Truth as having been cast to the “ground,” rather than to the “Earth.” The Hebrew word is translated either way. On the other hand, Ginzberg apparently took the passage to mean “Earth,” for he states (in I.53): “God cast the Angel of Truth down from heaven to earth . . . .” It is, nevertheless, likely that Rabbi Simon was as intent to give meaning to the difficult Daniel 8:12 and Psalm 85:12a passages in an ethics-centered homily (recall my discussion of “homiletic aggadah” in Angels & Demons 10: The Fallen Angels of Jude and 2nd Peter) as he was to create a “new” theology. The term translated “will arise” is generally used with reference to plants, which sprout or spring up or grow up from the earth (ground), according to major Hebrew dictionaries. The term translated “from the earth” offers no help in deciding the issue. It can be translated either “from the Earth” or “from the ground.”

In my next commentary, I shall offer an extended critique of the issue of whether the fall of the Angel of Truth was indeed a Fallen Angel Story. For now, I suggest that this story affords an excellent perspective to see how Jewish angelology depicts angels as the personification of God’s intrapersonal communication.

For those not familiar with the term “intrapersonal communication,” it is the equivalent of talking to (even arguing with) oneself. The Jewish psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that a constant conflict is occurring in the human psyche between a pleasure-principle Freud calls the Id and a morality principle Freud calls the Super-ego. A third force in the psyche—the Ego—mediates between the other two frequently opposing forces. This is bedrock “intrapersonal communication.” If “INTERpersonal communication” is communication between two persons, then “INTRApersonal communication” is communication within one individual person.

As I discuss on pages 75-76 of my book Disneology: Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World, humans may be said to be the image of God in the sense that they have free will, as God does. For a human, this free will stems from having the option to listen to his or her two inclinations: the good inclination and the evil inclination. These two inclinations are not far removed from Freud’s notions of the Id and the Super-ego. Humans (by exercising their Ego) are free to choose between and moderate alternatives. Similarly, God, as he decided to make man into His image, may be pictured as listening to the arguments of an (inner) Angel of Truth, an Angel of Mercy, an Angel of Righteousness, and an Angel of Peace. All of these angels had legitimate arguments, but despite the contrary arguments of Truth and Peace, God chose to create man.

Angels, of course, were unnecessary in order for God to have gone through His decision-making process. One might just as easily depict God as considering in His own mind the pros and cons of creating man. Yet, this concept of angels—as personifying the various considerations that may have occurred INTRAPERSONALLY in God’s own mind—allows humans to understand all sides of an issue God resolved using his own free will.

If we envision every “word” God utters as creating an angel, what is to prohibit us from envisioning every “thought” God thinks as being personified by an angel?

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