Angelic Warfare

 

This scene, taken from the Sistine Chapel (my brother nearly got arrested trying to snap a picture of the famous ceiling during our visit a few years back), depicts the war between angels and demons during the final judgement.

 

Here comes the spoiler- this battle will represent the climax of book three, Oceans of Fire.

 

Here’s what I want you to notice about Michelangelo’s spectacular depiction- those cats aren’t fighting with pillows. They aren’t playing harps or singing hymns. They are fighting to the death. But this isn’t the first time that these angels have battled. Revelation 12 says this:

 

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

 

This battle occurs toward the end of Tail of the Dragon, and it happens in heaven. I have been asked by a number of people who have read the book how we can depict violence and injury in heaven? Isn’t heaven a place of peace and harmony?

 

My answer is this- we are told that there was a ‘war in heaven.’ Unless the war was some kind of celestial Halo tournament and the good guys were quicker with their joysticks, then I assume that means angels were hurt or killed. Just as I assume that if Satan was able to tempt a third of them to go astray, temptation must also have been present in heaven.

The Dragon

 

Central to our series is the figure of Helel. In Tail of the Dragon, he is a secondary character, but remains the driving force of all action in the book. He is a highly charismatic, beautiful, intelligent and proud arella who causes those around him to bend to his will or resist him.

He is modeled on our conception of Lucifer, the angel that, in monotheistic tradition, fell from heaven after leading a rebellion. It is this story, the tale of the created challenging his creator, that led us to undertake this book.

This story is so fascinating to me. How is it possible that God created a being that he had to realize would lead a rebellion? How is it possible that a created being became the foil for his own creator? How could a being, with no conception or evidence of evil, go on to become the author of the Dark Ages, the holocaust, cancer, suicide bombings and Fox News?

Our understanding of Satan is a very Christian one. In Jewish tradition it is less clear that he was a definitive being. The term Satan and ha-Satan (meaning accuser or the accuser) seem to be used interchangeably, indicating that it is either a specific being or a set of characteristics (antagonist, accuser, he who opposes Yahweh, etc.). In the Koran, Satan is a being who is cast out of heaven for failing to bow down to Adam at Allah’s behest. He tempts Adam to sin and is cast out of heaven with the human patriarch. He is told that his punishment will be delayed until the day of judgement. But the New Testament indicates that Satan is the angel known as Lucifer, who was cast from heaven, tempted Eve in the garden, and now seeks to destroy mankind. It indicates that he has dominion over the earth and that he will be judged at the second coming and condemned to hell fire.

This Christian version of Satan is our character Helel.

In the second book, By Demons be Driven (currently undergoing first edits), Helel becomes a much more visible character. This allows us to explore some of the earlier questions that I mentioned.

We take a somewhat dualistic approach to the question of sin. In our books, Helel is always clearly a created being who perverts good things in an attempt to undermine God’s authority. He is not, however, the author of sin. He is not even the first being to rebel against God. The prologue to the first book actually begins with an episode from a previous rebellion, which becomes a model for Helel’s own insurgency.

In books two and three the idea of chaos becomes more and more important. We take the stance that there is a destructive force that Helel taps into and gains some mastery over. However, he is merely a created being who harnesses something that is a force, rather than a being. It is this force of destruction which is the real opposite of God. Helel merely taps into this force to further his cause.

And by the last book, Oceans of Fire, chaos becomes a character in its own right.

Alcoholic Angels

Did you hear the one about the drunken angel? Apparently no one has. I was amazed that of all of the rather controversial items that we take on in the book, the issue that generated the most push back was the concept of angels drinking.

There are several characters in the novel who have a taste for yayin. Although it is never explicitly stated, it is inferred that this is some type of wine.

While to me this seemed like a minor point of controversy, [after all we endorse a version of the big bang, we  imagine angels using wormholes, we conceptualize a network through which dark energy is continually recycled, we even have angels mining the material of quasars] many of the earliest reviews contained questions about drinking in heaven.

Here is our answer: perhaps angels never tasted wine in heaven; however, the fact that Lucifer, an angel living in heaven, was able to be tempted to reject God and was able to convince a third of the angels to follow suit seems to indicate a level of temptation in heaven.

If there is no temptation, there can be no choice. Sin needs opportunity in order to exist.

Sin is most often the misapplication or perversion of a good thing. Food is good; gluttony is bad. Sex is good; promiscuity is bad. Football is good; the Dallas Cowboys are bad.

So an angel walks into a bar and orders a martini…

* I would have given proper attribution to the picture above, but found it in several locations and wasn’t sure who to attribute it to. If it is yours, thanks!

The Trouble With Time

The concept of time has been a point of contention between philosophers and scientists for thousands of years. To this day many different ideas about the nature of time exist.

Sir Isaac Newton believed that time was a fundamental structure of the universe. This realist view postulates that time is a real thing that people and events move through.

Immanual Kant argued that time is a mental framework which allows us to experience, rather than a real thing. It is a means for us to organize and understand the world, much like language.

Einstein developed the idea that time is dependent on the spatial reference of the observer. It is this theory which opens the door for ideas like time travel or relativistic travel (theories that we utilize in the book).

I believe that all of these ideas are partially true. And in the book we use these different definitions of time in order to explain some of the ways in which science and religion both fail to see the bigger picture.

Here is an example:

Monotheists are adamant in arguing that God created the earth in six literal days. Scientists are equally adamant, although much less exact, in arguing that  it had to take billions of years for the earth to form. This is because both sides are choosing to define time in a very Newtonian way (which is ironic since monotheists believe that God is omnipresent and most scientists embrace the theory of relativity).

While I might not be able to perceive time in anything but a realist view, except perhaps philosophically, I am rational enough to understand that my perception is limited. I can conceive that if there is an all powerful deity, he might not be subject to time the same way that I am.

Here is an example from the book:
A deep voice interrupted his thoughts. A word rang out in the stillness. He did not recognize the word, but he somehow knew it. It was the word. The word of initiation that gave life. He couldn’t repeat it. As soon as it was spoken he could no longer hear it, but he saw it begin.

The great orb suddenly exploded in a dazzling display of light. The giant ball of gas became instantly alive with life-giving energy and heat. The immense glowing globe drifted off to the side and Ariel could see, in the newly brightened space, a much smaller sphere approaching. How was he seeing Gaia?

A voice answered inside of this own head.

‘You must understand that here and there do no exist for us. We are where we are and now we are creating a new world, a world that you helped prepare. You did well. This is a special creation. One that has been planned for a millennium and will be the site of a great and terrible chapter in the history of the Kingdom. In time the entire universe will come to realize that this creation marks a pivotal turning point. Many will be tempted to doubt the wisdom of this creation, but I ask you to have faith that it is for the greater good that we gather here today.’

What did this mean? How could this creation be both great and terrible? He was so excited to be witnessing this and so confused by what he was seeing and hearing. There was no here or there? What did that mean? Again the voice answered him inside his own head.

‘Some things you are unable to understand, but your faith is strong. We would ask that you continue to believe. We are not restricted by space and time the way that the created are. While you are here, in the throne room with us, these things do not apply to you either. You are literally in that small solar system in the Milky Way, but you are also here, securely seated in Mount Kol. You are going to witness a process that requires a week, but to you it will seem like minutes have passed. The word of creation has been spoken and that single word spawns all of creation, but we will try to explain it to you as we go.’

 

This scene comes from our conception of Gaia’s creation. We hope that it gives you an alternative way to consider some of the issues that science and religion fail to find common ground on.

Ink on the Skin, Ink on the Page

When I was 21, I decided to get a tattoo. It was 1991 and I was a third year freshman in college. You might recognize this image as the logo for Led Zeppelin’s record label, Swan Song.

After 21 years I still love the music of Zeppelin and I still kind of like my tattoo. Through the years it has meant many different things to me.

 

In my twenties, it was an homage to my favorite band. Like many young people, I used music as a means to craft a sense of identity. Metallica, Guns n Roses, Rage Against the Machine- my musical influences reflected my lifestyle- fast and hard.

 

Later, after finishing graduate school and beginning my professional career, it reminded me of Icarus, the mythological character who flew too close to the sun with wax wings. He fell into the sea and drowned. This tattoo gave me a warning about the dangers of blind ambition and excessive pride. I chose to ignore the warning.

 

In my mid-thirties, I had the first of two children and this tattoo became the good angel, sitting on my shoulder, reminding me of the necessity of making the right choices. Or at least that was the intent. Given the choices that I made, perhaps it was a fallen angel, tempting me to do things that caused me to fail. My divorce would seem to argue for that interpretation.

 

Through the years I have often been asked if the angel was flying upward or falling downward. My answer is YES. It depends upon your interpretation.

Today, this slightly blurring, subcutaneous ink is a reality check. It is a reminder of the war that is going on between good and evil every day. It is a reminder that we live among the fallen, but we have a way out. My tattoo is Gadreel, or Ariel. You will have to read the book to decide which one.