ANGELS and landladies

CJ Stone contemplates how angels manifest themselves to human beings and whether they can take the form of New Age landladies.

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921

Albert Einstein once said that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. He was referring to the fact that the laws of physics are universal, and that our brains seem to be attuned to understanding them.

Albert Einstein can speak for himself, of course. He was a genius and probably did find the laws of physics comprehensible. Me, I find it hard enough to comprehend how my toaster works, and why my TV set keeps beaming makeover programs and reality game shows into my head, let alone how gravity works or why the speed of light is constant.

Albert Einstein also, very famously, discovered his Theory of Relativity by imagining himself to be flying on a beam of light. Time is relative, he saw. When approaching the speed of light, he concluded—while zooming along in his head at 299,792.458 km per second—time slows down.

Which means that, for creatures made of light (angels for instance) time is static, and is just another dimension to wander around in.

You’ll have to excuse that last sentence. It refers to my own personal speculations about the nature of angels, not to Albert Einstein’s. Supernatural beings do not figure highly in the body of Albert Einstein’s work.

Which is a pity. You’d have thought he could have spiced up his writings a little by adding at least the occasional other-worldly entity, if only for entertainment value.

But he didn’t, and that’s as much as we know about Einstein’s Theory of Angels.

Talking of angels: I went to this bed and breakfast place once. On the kitchen walls were all these homilies. One of them said, “dogs are angels with paws.” Another said, “cats are angels with whiskers.”

The bookshelves were filled with books about angels. One of them had a picture of an angel on the cover. It was like a Pre-Raphaelite Ophelia, a diaphanous soul in a diaphanous dress, twee and fey and not at all threatening, with a cloud of tumbling auburn hair and a pair of diaphanous, feathery wings. This seemed less an angel, more an illustration on gift-wrapping paper.

It was a New Age bed and breakfast establishment. As well as providing the bed and the breakfast (muesli, naturally) it also provided sustenance for the soul. Therapy. Reiki. Tarot and T’ai Chi. Angels, crystals, fairy-lights and incense, massage and meditation. Channeling. Conversations with angels.

The proprietor had two faces: one she kept for the office, and another she put on for her public. The public face was all solicitous concern. It seemed to shine with an inner light. It glowed from an unknown depth of happiness that spoke its own proof. “I am an enlightened being,” said the look on her face.

Her other face was calculating and sharp. It knew the measure of things. It knew how to add and subtract. It was the face behind the face, analytical and aware, cunning rather than intelligent, careful to remain hidden.

The reason I knew about the other face was because I caught a glimpse of it as she was entering her office. She beamed her beam of munificence into the room, turned and then entered the office, and, as she did, so her eyes glazed over, became steely and impassive, and the smile dropped from her lips.

Another reason I knew about her office face was because a friend of mine worked for her for a while, as a carpenter. Carpenters don’t matter. They are mere objects to be walked around. Consequently she was not guarded in his company. He often saw her other face. When I mentioned that I had seen it he said, “yes! It was like she was counting the cash.”

Which is probably the case.

One day she was in her sitting room with a house full of guests (she treated them, of course, like devotees). She was declaiming happily, that look of blissed-out wonder in her eyes. It was a practiced look.

“Watch out!” she said. “My wings are beginning to show.”

She meant that she was an angel.

She said that angels wanted to help us but were not allowed to do so unless we asked. She said they were there to serve us and that it didn’t matter how big or small the task, all we had to do was to ask. And then she gave examples. “They will help you to find the ideal present,” she said, “or to cook a nice meal, or to find lost keys.”

Angels as domestic servants.

What I object to most in all of this is that these people clearly have no idea who (or what) angels are.

Isaiah describes the seraphim as having six wings—two covering the face, two covering the feet, and two to fly by—and himself as quaking with fear and shame at the sight of them. When he saw them the house was filled with smoke. One of them carried a live coal from the fire and touched it to Isaiah’s lips, to take away his sin.

Angels are eternal beings. They move back and forth in time. Their bodies are made of light. They wield swords of fire. Their eyes spark nuclear fission. They have waged war in heaven. To look upon them would make men mad. They are elemental beings, incomprehensible to the mind. The idea that their purpose is to find your lost keys is – well – just plain stupid.

As for Albert Einstein, he traveled at the speed of light and saw time stand still. In other words, maybe he glimpsed eternity.

He didn’t, however, mention any angels. Perhaps they were all on holiday at the time. I’ve heard they like bed and breakfast.

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