I’ve always liked angels. Ever since I was a very small child the idea that God had servants tickled that chunk of my brain that likes to puzzle out mysteries. God is omnipotent, right? So why does He/She/It need helpers? I pretty quickly worked out that whatever angels were like, they’d probably bear very little resemblance to the winged humans seen in Renaissance art. These were, after all, servants of the power that set the stars in motion. I already knew that the stars were vast nuclear explosions and really enjoyed trying to vizualise a power capable of creating and shaping the vast universe that science was revealing to us. I still do, despite the fact that I’m not religious and in fact regard religion as a form of mental illness. I guess it’s the same part of my brain that likes thinking about the life cycle of D&D Mind Flayers, even though I know they don’t exist and never could.
I’m a big fan of the Remy Chandler novels by Thomas Sniegoski, an urban fantasy series in which the protagonist, Boston gumshoe Remy Chandler is actually the angel Remiel of the Host Seraphim, a warrior of God who turned his back on Heaven after the Great War against Lucifer Morningstar and his rebel angels. While the stories are very enjoyable, well-written and tightly paced, the angels in the stories are very physical, with very little sense of how truly terrifying and inhuman such creatures might be. I’m of the opinion that such beings, if revealed to human senses, must be utterly overwhelming, stretching the minds of the observer almost to breaking point. After all, according to the Bible the first thing angels say to humans who witness them is “Be not afraid”.
In my TIME WAR setting, I’ve included angels and demons, in the form of the Elohim and the Fallen. My take on these beings is that they are almost a form of robot; smart systems woven from the forces of the universe in order to fine tune and maintain reality. Though very intricate and very sophisticated, they’re not really alive and can only simulate free will. Their origin remains a mystery though, and many believe that they are the equivalent of caretaker programs running on the software of a universe that is really nothing more than a very realistic simulation. The Fallen are the equivalent of corrupted programs.
One of my favourite books is The Physics of Angels, a series of conversations between Rupert Sheldrake (scientist) and Matthew Fox (theologian) in which they discuss the points where science and faith meet. It’s fascinating stuff, some of which does wander quite a long way off into the fringes of pseudoscience and back, but it’s the effort of imagination in it that I love. Sheldrake, a controversial scientist who may or may not be a complete nutter, is capable of imagining a God that could have created the universe that we see around us, and not the simplified / faked-up version that a lot of the faithful tend to espouse. Fox is capable of imagining that science is correct in it’s explanation of the complex way the forces of the universe have interacted to create us and the world around us, and is happy with the idea that God may have created a sort of “self-assembling” reality.
Now, I’m not sure if I believe in God or not. I’m pretty sure that the structure of the human brain makes a sort of grudging belief in a higher power of some description almost inevitable. But what I find incredible is the way that so many of those who profess a belief in God feel they have to limit Him/Her/It by denying science. What’s more majestic and awe-inspiring? A God that waves a tentacle and conjures up a world and life upon that world, or one that creates a vast domino chain of events that lead to the creation of intelligent life in a universe mostly full of vacuum and hard radiation? I guess ultimately it comes down to what they’re comfortable with. Those limited in imagination find the idea of the magical invisible sky daddy easier to identify with, more comfortable to consider and a lot less scary to think about than the of something vast, powerful and essentially unknowable that may or may not give a toss about humanity.