Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Angels and Afterlifes: Fine Distinctions

"I have instanced the belief in angelic music calling away the soul as one heathen item in popular Protestant mythology--

"Hark! They whisper! Angels say

'Sister spirit, come away!' "

Another is embodied in the tenet that the souls of the departed become angels. In Judaic and Christian doctrine, the angel creation is distinct from that of human beings, and a Jew or a Catholic would as little dream of confusing the distinct conception of angel and soul, as in believing in metempsychosis [reincarnation]. But not so dissenting [Protestant] religion. According to Druidic dogma, the souls of the dead were guardians of the living; a belief shared with the ancient Indians, who venerated the spirits of their ancestry, the Pitris, as watching over and protecting them. Thus, the hymn 'I Want To Be An Angel,' so popular in dissenting schools, is founded in the venerable Aryan myth, and therefore of exceeding interest; but Christian it is not.

"Another tenet which militates against Christian doctrine, and has supplanted it in popular belief, is that of the transmigration of the soul to bliss immediately on its departure from the body.

"The article stantis vel cadentis Fidei, of the Apostles, was the resurrection of the body. If we read the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles with care, it is striking what great weight, we find, is laid on this doctrine. They went everywhere preaching--1. the rising of Christ; 2. the consequent resurrection of the bodies of Christians. 'If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised; and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.' This was the key-note to the teachings of the Apostles; it runs through the New Testament, and is reflected in the writings of the Fathers. It occupies its legitimate position in the Creeds, and the Church has never failed to insist upon it with no faltering voice.

"But the doctrine of the soul being transported to heaven, and of its happiness being completed at death, finds no place in the Bible or the Liturgies of any branch--either Greek, Roman, or Anglican--of the Church Catholic [Universal]. Yet this was the tenet of our Keltic forefathers, and it has maintained itself in English Protestantism, so as to divest the doctrine of the resurrection of its grasp on the popular mind. Among the Kelts, again, reception into the sacred inner circle of the illuminated was precisely analogous to the received dissenting doctrine of conversion. To it are applied, by the bards, terms such as 'the second birth,' 'the renewal,' which are to this day employed by Methodists to designate the mysterious process of conversion."

--Sabine Baring-Gould, Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, 1894.

1 comment:

John said...

Fascinating stuff. I remember when I actually read the Bible I was shocked at the many things that were NOT in Scriptures that I assumed came from there, but had been tacked on by "tradition" along the way.