Friday 17 May 2019

The individuality of angels and their fall

I used to find it difficult to understand the fall of angels. Living in Heaven in the presence of God, why would they rebel and become demons?

I now find it easier to comprehend, since I regard each angel as an individual, and some are evil by nature.

More exactly, I don't regard angels as a separate creation from Men - but as pre-mortal Men, as pre-mortal spirits. And all Men are agents - have free will - since each has existed from eternity, and has a part of him that is uncreated, divine, co-eternal with God.

In other words, before we became part of divine creation as children of God, we were already beings; and like all beings were alive and had consciousness and individuality.

I regard the goodness of God as a project, into which God hopes to bring as many as will willingly join. But as some men were made children of God it will sooner or later have become apparent they wanted no part of God's plan of loving creation; and of these some were actively hostile. It was these actively hostile spirits who became the demons; and whose motivation is the destruction of creation.

(I suppose that there are also pre-mortal spirits who simply opted-out of the scheme of creation - and dwell eternally alone and inactive.)

God loves all the children, including the demons; and administers creation thus. It is not possible, in principle, to summarise how this works - because every single one of God's children is an unique individual, with an unique disposition and motivations; and all are agents, able to choose.

But some choices are irrevocable (because true agency entails that we can make permanent choices). So God's creation takes all of this into account.

It is well to think of this symphony of unique and free voices - good, evil and indifferent - that constitutes creation, when we suppose that we have detected some contradiction - or unlovingness - in the world as we perceive it.


David said...

Is it possible that the dark forces could have taken some of the good angels or post-mortal souls 'hostage' for want of a better word, out of spite specifically directed at despising their unusual faith and goodness? And that, for whatever reason, at this time at least, and perhaps permanently, God is unable to release them to heaven from their tormentors? Or does God always have such power, privided a soul or even an angelic one is willing to repent? I sometimes have the chilling perception of being momentarily able to percieve the hellish plight of a soul, against their wishes, enduring an eternally streching moment of horror. I dread it happening to me and sometimes imagine that is what madness might be like! Is that a foolish or unfounded thought? But also I have an associated intuition that some angelic and saintly souls are currently enduring a great torment - holding back the dam as it were, until the end of days...The terror lies in not knowing if the demonic torment will ever end for us individually...if an end can be guaranteed, if good will ultimately triumph over evil, well, then there is light to pursue on the horizon. But what if they (the dark forces) win? And the nashing teeth will chew forever...that is perhaps the most horrifying thought I can imagine. But then, once my moment of despair has gone, invariably induced by these spontaneous and undesirable intrusions to my perceptions, I, equally unbiddenly, return to a sense that I am bathing in the glory of God's love and that casteth out the fear and darkness in my heart, when I shun it so, and chose the light...

David said...

Can you clarify this business about being able to control ones thoughts Bruce? Surely we all know that we cannot do that! People have intrusive thoughts all the time. The arachnophobe sees spiders where there are merely shadows and thinks "It is a spider!" The normal, everyday person waiting for a train may, fleetingly, imagine jumping in front of a moving train, despite being otherwise mentally free from suicidal ideation. Much of the stream of our thoughts and actions are totally automatic:

"How are you?" "I'm fine thanks! How are you?" Without thinking, at least not deeply, the words spew out all the time, overlayed on the deeply ingrained automatic 'thoughts.' When I am insulted or congratulated my emotional response to these stimula immediately furnish me with a stream of automatic 'thoughts!' So, clearly, I think you are talking about something much deeper than that, when you say we remain responsible for our thoughts?! I imagine you mean something more like 'being responsible for being true to our deepest inner conscience. Being faithful to the light of inner divine truth which each of us carries in our hearts and to which we can betray, like a Judas Iscariot or bear upright as a flame of searing truth vanquishing the darkness of our flawed earthly personas! But thoughts alone, well they seem merely bubbling foam on the beaches of a spiritual ocean...

William Wright (WW) said...

It's interesting that you wrote about this topic now. A few days ago I was writing/ thinking about the Fall, and what I would now view as the largely erroneous but commonly accepted Mormon theology of the Fall being Good and necessary. Rather, I think of the Fall (or at least the part of it where Men become separated from God... I think there might be multiple stages, events, and players in a series of 'Falls', perhaps) was a bad thing - a deviation from God's original plan - that now requires the goodness of God to re-deem and make Good. The choices that led to this state of affairs, as you call out in this post, were based on the free will of conscious beings being allowed to make permanent/ irrevocable decisions that differed from what God would have wanted for them/us.

Anyway, in thinking more about this, last night I was reading Lehi's words to his son Jacob in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 2), where he also mentions an angel of God that fell and became the devil. It was interesting to read what you wrote here and compare with Lehi's views on things - men, agency, angels, choice, etc. Very complementary, I think. Might be worth a look.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - That couldn't happen because souls can't be taken hostage. Agency is intrinsic, not a gift. Our soul is our own eternally and neccessarily.

I don't think I've written about controlling thoughts. I think it is a wrong way of framing the question - leading to circularity. I don't have an explanation ready and I'm afraid I haven't got time to construct one just now. But it is to do with the fact that thinking is ultimate reality and only thinking can be truly free.

@Bill - I find that I don't include the Fall in my understanding nowadays. I used to try and make sense of the concept but I can't - and then I realised it is not mentioned in the Fourth Gospel, so it is probably not be a genuine teaching of Jesus, so I don't need to believe it anyway.

I am inclined to think it was constructed (made up, inferred or whatever) by those who believed in a monotheistic God's omnipotence and omniscience, in order to explain why Jesus was necessary.

I don't think the Fall actually fits with Mormon theology's deepest underlying principles - but is just something left-over from earlier Christianity that has not yet been sorted-out.

i.e. Mormon theology explains why Jesus was necessary without needing to posit a Fall; because creation is an evolutionary process, a spiritual progression - a work in progress.

stephen cooper said...

Yes of course demons can repent. It has happened in the past and it will happen in the future.

And we all, or almost all of us, need to repent for all those times when we jokingly said "Peter betrayed Jesus" ---- that is not what the Bible said.

Peter tried to stay as close to Jesus as he could. He just did not have the ability to keep people from slandering him because of his attempts, which take up several verses in the Bible (but trust me , if you are a friend of Jesus, as Peter was, you have absolutely no concern for what people nastily say about you, even if they are "Biblical scholars", who mock you for a few badly phrased verses in the Bible that could make you look like a loser to people who are ill disposed to you - Sad!).) There is not a single word in the Bible which authorizes us to condescendingly say Peter betrayed Jesus, or that Peter was a coward.
But so many of us are cold-hearted, and thousands and thousands of times every year you can hear a sermon about Peter and his "cowardice". That is so sad!

In the USA there is an expression, "people at the DMV". meaning basically people who have to show up in person to get their licenses renewed (the elite renew their licenses without showing up at the DMV ---- the Department of Motor Vehicles).

Every single one of those people at the DMV are special children of God.

Jesus personally offered to save every single one of them, out of sheer simple friendship, in this universe, and in any better universe than this universe that you can imagine. And, for the record, none of us have a right to imagine a worse universe than this one. Trust me on that! Next time you are at the DMV, think about tit: Jesus died for everyone at the DMV!

If we are lucky, we are the brave people, or the people who are called to be brave, who live in a lesser universe and who for that reason are requested to pray for those at the margin, for those who never had a friend in this world, and who need our prayers.

William Wright (WW) said...

Bruce - I think by Fall I don't mean what you would traditionally assume as a typical Adam/Eve/ Garden story from Genesis. I would agree that what we are left with in the bible (and, it seems, some of what we have in the Book of Mormon) is based on a tangle of stories, legends, etc. though not wholly without some truth or historical basis. It seems clear to me, however, regardless what the real story or stories are, that individuals and groups at various times and in various circumstances made choices that separated us from God... experienced or enacted various 'falls', I would think in a similar manner as to what you write about in this very post regarding the fall of angels, if that helps clarify things.

I don't think it is correct, however, to say that Mormon theology shows how a Fall isn't necessary. It is based on it - centered on it, really, in many ways, perhaps even more so than the doctrines of any other Christian group that I know of. Mormons have altered the story, or the context at least, however, to suggest that the fall was a good and necessary thing for the progression of Man. As with several other assumptions and beliefs Mormons have adopted over the years and which I was raised with, I now (mostly) disagree with this view. Just as with your statements around the fall of angels, better to not have fallen, but having now done so and being unable to go back and change that, it is Jesus that creates a way back (or, maybe more accurately, forward) into one-ness.

Lastly, on your reference to the 4th gospel... I don't think that record is anywhere close to being either complete or uncorrupted, and would suggest teachings and concepts not found there should still be up for consideration. Joseph Smith, among others, seemed to be under the impression that the 'fulness of the record of John', a record that seems extremely important for us to have, is something that we are still without(at least as of the early/mid-19th century when he was recording God telling him this). The 4th gospel to me is likely shadow, however good it may be (and it is probably the best we have left to work with from the bible), of a greater story yet to be told.

Brad said...

Demons are not fallen angels. They are disembodied spirits of angel/human hybrids that torment mankind. Read the book of Enoch. There is still an advanced angelic hierarchy of darkness, most are free, some are imprisoned (Azazel as in Valley of Azazel mentioned in Lev and Abbadon in Rev).