The subject of angels (fallen and otherwise) keeps creeping up, lately, and since I don’t know what to make of it, I’ve decided to blog about it.
Several weeks ago, I was able to attend a lecture by Elie Wiesel, author of Night. I blogged about most of the lecture, but I left out a bit that occurred during the question and answer period because, frankly, it embarrassed me. But now the subject keeps coming up, so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
Mr. Wiesel, a holocaust survivor, spoke of God often in his discussion. In spite of his sufferings, he has never abandoned his belief in God. He did say, though, that one thing has always haunted him about the Nazis. Wiesel said he has long been a believer that education is the answer to the ills of society, but that the Nazi Officers were some of the most learned and cultured men in German society. He can’t reconcile that level of learning with the level of evil of which they were capable.
Now, I’m Catholic. I believe in angels (good and bad.) I believe that the devil is a fallen angel, and that other angels have fallen. I don’t talk about this much because it’s strange to talk about these kinds of things in everyday conversation, and it doesn’t dominate my life. But it’s a belief I hold, nonetheless. So to me, it’s easy to see how cultured, learned men could become demonic fiends. Human beings have a strong propensity to sin, and I would imagine that dark forces are happy to nurture that in any way that they can.
When it came time to ask questions it occurred to me that Mr. Wiesel never once mentioned “the devil” in his talk, so I asked him if he believed in such a being. Several people in the audience actually laughed at me. (Some of you may be laughing at me.) He looked like he didn’t know quite what to make of my question, at first, but he was kind enough not to laugh. He did think for a bit and then answered that in his learning, “the devil” was always a literary figure, but not a real being. He said that he was taught that the figure is used symbolically. He gave me a very nice “namaste” bow at the end of the lecture, but he and the others in the audience probably thought I was a nut.
Now, last weekend I completed C S Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters for my book club. If you aren’t familiar with the book, it’s an epistolary novella conveying the correspondence of two devils, an expert and a novice, about how to ensnare souls. It’s a short book, though very dense and very troubling. Though it’s fiction, much of it caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand up, especially this advice from one devil to another: “The fact that “devils” are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights…” (p. 37) This goes back to the poet Baudelaire’s assertion in The Generous Gambler that “the devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist!” I would assert that the devil has been fairly successful in this venture.
I’ve been following author Anne Rice on Twitter and on Facebook, and her new book Angel Time is about to be released. Rice is the author of the popular Vampire Lestat series–among others–but has had a recent return to her Catholic faith. She wrote a book about that conversion (which was fabulous) titled Called Out of Darkness, and the popular Christ the Lord books. If you scroll back through her Facebook questions and ponderings about the existence of devils and hell you’ll find some interesting dialogue on the subject.
So what does all this add up to? I don’t know. But my writer-brain feels that tingling sensation that occurs when a great swirl of ideas moving formlessly through the head starts to connect, and wants to take form on the page. I don’t know if it will lead anywhere, but I’d love your thoughts on angels, and devils, and God. But before I go, I’ll leave you with these words of comfort and caution from the Introduction & Preface to The Screwtape Letters:
“There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. No being could attain a “perfect badness” opposite to the perfect goodness of God…” (p 6)
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” (p. 15)