Tuesday 19 July 2022

How might a 'group soul' (e.g. an Angel of England) actually work?

It is interesting - and not easy, I find! - to try and understand just how group souls might actually function. 

For example, how an Angel of England might work to pursue the nation's destiny. 

And, in this, how Not to fall-into physicsy ways of thinking about people en masse!

The first insight is that the destiny of a nation is not analogous to a blueprint, nor a plan; even though this is the first kind of metaphor that comes to my mind. 

I want to avoid regarding the national angel as if part of a heavenly bureaucracy, 'tasked' with  'implementing' some particular aspect of the divine 'strategy', in-line-with God's mission statement

So, if that is a wrong metaphor; then what would be better? 

Well, some kind of family metaphor, obviously. 

How could we, for instance, describe the way in which an 'ideal' father would act to pursue his family's destiny; especially the destiny of his children?  

The ideal father would not be operating from plans or towards a blueprint; but instead from the fact of his being in harmonious accord with God's purposes and methods. 

Then, whatever he actually did, would be in continuous interaction with the consequences of each individual child. For example, presumably each child would - from time to time, and indeed frequently - err and sin and start getting out-of-harmony with God. 

The ideal father would perhaps remove positive incentives for his child to sin, keeping the child away from environments that endorse sin (beyond that child's capacity to discern and resist). He may actively try to dissuade wrong-directions and wrong-methods.

But whatever the ideal father did; each of his children would be unique, and would have his or her own unique destiny. The ideal father would try to work from-and-with each particular child's nature. 

He would not try to force all of his children into one mould, nor even into a pre-planned unique mould that took no account of the child's choices; but the ideal father would be continually nurturing that child as he or she engaged with life in a trial and error fashion. 

The ideal father would encourage what he hoped were the best choices, and work to make these choices available - but the child would decide. Bad choices by the child would lead to evil-inducing situation - that turned the child away from God. 

The angel might try to 'engineer' or create situations in which the child might recognize and repent these bad choices and turn again towards God's creative intent. 

But - to be effective - each 'engineered situation' ought to take account of the individual, and the situation in which he find's himself (the situation in-which he has, to some extent, placed himself).

The ideal father would then deal-with whatever choices the child had made; and work from wherever (whatever point) that choice had placed the child. 

Then imagine that this ideal father was placed 'in charge' of a nation as the Angel of that nation; and was tasked with creating choices for individual persons and and dealing with the outcomes of those choices... 

The angel takes into account the uniqueness of individual persons, and of spiritually-coherent and motivated groups of persons; but also the uniqueness of the individual nation of England. 

The angel works much as the imagined ideal father; and therefore seeks to contribute to the alignment and harmony of the nation with on-going divine creation. 

The angel of a nation would not ideally work alone, which would be ineffective; but would be helped greatly by dealing with other angels who had responsibility for various smaller groups. 

Thus the angel of a nation would be analogous to an ideal tribal patriarch - a father-of-fathers; and angel-of-angels (or 'arch-angel'). 

But not by trying to force the nation to follow a pre-ordained path; rather, by knowing what is unique about that nation - nature, capabilities, motivations - and working with-and-from that. 

Because nations are unique, none are 'equal' - except in the spiritual sense of being loved by God as his families. Some nations are better or worse than others, some more or less capable - and the national motivations vary in their Goodness and change in time, including as a consequence of earlier choices. 

A once good and capable Nation may transform, through bad choices unrepeated, into an evil and/or inept nation; or a nation may break-up (or combine with another) for valid, or for evil, reasons. 

(And, of course, some 'political units' that get called nations, are not coherent and destined 'spiritual-nations', and therefore lack a guarding and guiding angel. Such pseudo-nations (probably most of the nations of the world) properly, by God's intent, are under the responsibility of another nation's angel; or else the people ought to disperse to other real nations.)

Throughout, the angel continues to work with the nation - starting from wherever the nation actually is; and with short term aims that are varied in accordance with the consequences of choices. What might be a good choice for a good nation, may become an evil choice for a bad nation. 

The national angel needs continually to take account of what he is dealing-with here-and-now, and how best to encourage that national being to become its best possible self; how to develop the best possible family environment for nurturing God's children; and how that nation (as it is, as it could become) may optimally contribute to God's ongoing creation. 

Note: My assumption is that angels are either male or female, men or women; and therefore it seems likely that some nations have a father/ patriarch archangel, while others have a mother/ matriarch archangel. Furthermore, this makes-a-difference; since men and women differ. Alternatively, or instead, it may be that nations are ruled by both a man and women angel united in eternal marriage as a dyad - in the same way as 'God'. Therefore, the 'ideal father' in the above passages may be changed to 'ideal mother' - mutatis mutandis


Epimetheus said...

Perhaps the national angels are merely our ancestors in heaven? This would suggest that the real mass of national "distinctiveness" is on the other side of the veil. We get a little glow of it back in this world.

ben said...

A nation would be an organism made of organisms like an ant colony is made of ants or a human body is made of cells; nations would be made of cells that are humans. The nation would be an incarnate being, with a body made of human cells. Presumably England existed before it incarnated and may now be in another form if England has died. The cells that used to constitute England don't seem to form a nation with themselves any longer.

If England is an actual being, then it might be that its cells can know its mind. Maybe England's mind is made of English individuals minds that can somehow tap into the mind of England? Or maybe there's some direct empathising like Tolkien with the meteorite.

Also, I suppose families, nations, races would be groupings of similar beings that were somehow associated before incarnation and so there might be something like a cosmic England. An England in Heaven, even.

These thoughts aren't all necessarily consistent with each other.

Rainforest Giant said...

So when a nation dies or is transformed beyond its previous form does the nature of the Angel change?

Joseph A. said...

Paging Kristor . . . he must have something insightful to write about this.

Your description -- which seems appropriate -- reminds me of the Greeks' understanding of the Golden Age. I suspect that myths come from true insights into the nature of things. And so in this case, too.

And we can add the role of the saints in the subsequent life of their nation -- and of nations that adopt them (e.g. George).

We really see so little -- physicsy, spiritually, socially, even psychologically . . . I wonder if ego-centrism has its root in our significant nearsightedness.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Epi - If there is a genuine group identity, there must be a guiding purpose, which means (for me) a guiding 'being'. Otherwise, purpose is just being projected onto the nation.

@ben - analogies are fine, so long as we don't assume we understand the operations of that which is being analogized: such as ants. Ant behaviour is not biologically explicable, any more than human behaviour - both require a metaphysics that allows for genuine teleology, which science does not.

@RG - Yes, change is a consequence of time, and all living beings include time in their 'definitions'.

In general - readers need to be clear that I am Not, here, recapitulating explanations based upon 'Platonic ideals' of nations (such as are mentioned by CS Lewis in his Britain-Logres distinction, or in The Last Battle - where Lewis was explicitly drawing upon Platonism).

My underlying metaphysical assumptions (concerning the nature of reality) are very different.

ben said...

It wouldn't really be analogy. The idea would be that England exists/existed as a literal body made of English cells. There would be a situation of nestedness or fractalness with cells making humans, humans making nations, nations making races.

To illustrate with an example, men fighting in war would be something like the arms of the body of the nation fighting for the whole body that is the nation. During battle, the men would be possessed by England or somehow empathising with England's mind. Each man would adopt the mentality of an individual (England) defending itself from another individual (foreign nation).

With this understanding, the foreign invasion situation in the West might have been planned by the demons to literally kill the national beings that used to exist, to drive them out of incarnation.

Foreigners come in -> natives see each other as traitors/don't know who's traitor, who's not/spoil to each other as kin in contact with foreigners -> England is killed thereby because the cells aren't cohering into a whole and England becomes a spirit again or takes on a new form.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ben - I personally feel the need for an explanation that 'models' the way in which the individual 'Englishmen' can know and respond to the top-down spiritual guidance. I think it is some combination of an innate disposition (because God chose where to place incarnate spirits) with the decision of each to open his mind to such guidance.

As for how a spiritual-nation might be destroyed - in this entropic world, there are innumerable ways in which creation can be impaired or destroyed.

I agree that the society is 'nested' - but fractals don't actually explain anything in 'real life' (i.e. divine creation) - they are just vague analogies. Fractals are a mathematical property, derived from mathematical axioms; and real life has many other features, and limits not included in mathematics (fractals go on ad infinitum, real life does-not because limited in both directions by max and min magnitude).

No Longer Reading said...

A lot to think about here. The idea of an angel of a nation as a tribal patriarch working with other angels makes sense.

In thinking of how a group soul would work, one way that I try to understand it is what would it be like from the inside? That is to say, what would it be like for someone in a nation with a strong group soul.

One way I envision it is that you know that whatever you do it is going to be integrated into society as a whole. You can be in a village and work in isolation without ever talking to people around and yet there is still a connection there that you can feel in that what you are doing still supports others. I find Ben's analogy of a body helpful here, though it's not an exact parallel.

For instance, the whole social framework of medieval society has disappeared. It's not that they had horse drawn wagons and now we have trucks, but rather that the entire framework has gone away. The situation now would be like a cell saying "I'm going to be a red blood cell". But that only works if all the other cells around are doing what they are supposed to do. What does it mean to be a red blood cell in isolation?

Likewise, someone can't just decide to be a medieval blacksmith. You can learn blacksmithing, but that position is based on its relation to others in a medieval society and it doesn't work unless everyone else does it? And what provides the coordination? The group soul.

At least that's how I try to envision it. Like you say, it's not easy to articulate precisely how it would work.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NLR - I see that medieval situation as a half-way house; and the primal situation as being more like a hunter-gatherer tribe; where 'specialization' of function is less categorical; more fluid and personal.