Naming the Angels on the Head of a Pin

by Donald Michael Kraig

About twenty years ago, when any article about Apple (then Apple Computer) referred to the company as “beleaguered,” I was an active member in a users’ organization known as the Los Angeles Macintosh Group. I wrote some articles for LAMG’s journal, I attended their meetings, and I participated on the forums on their internet site. Note that I didn’t call it a “website” because it wasn’t part of the now ubiquitous World Wide Web which was still growing and was not dominant at that time. Most people today think of the internet and the World Wide Web as the same thing, but actually, the Web simply uses the internet as a means of interconnecting millions of sites. Back then there were different types of forums and sites such as the Usenet and its tens of thousands of Newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), etc. They’re still around, but today most people are unaware of them.

In fact, it’s possible to use the internet and not be linked to the Web at all. This was the case with LAMG, and to gain access to their site you had to use a special application. I don’t know if the organization still exists. It does have a website that consists of two pages, but as of this writing, the ownership of the group’s URL is going to expire in a few weeks.

Besides forums dedicated to helping people with their computer hardware and software, as well as the inevitable Macintosh/PC wars (Remember those? They now seem to be replaced by the Apple/Samsung wars.), the LAMG site also maintained more social forums for the discussion of non-computer interests ranging from job offers and the discussion of hobbies such as knitting and growing flowers, to philosophy and one of my favorite areas, the discussion of religion.

It was rarely the discussion of religion so much as arguments over the interpretation of religion. As the LAMG faded in importance due to some questionable financial shenanigans, the number of people who regularly visited that forum decreased to a handful. One was an ardent Christian who insisted that his interpretation of the Bible was the only valid and historically accurate interpretation. Another person was the brother of a well-known science fiction writer. His knowledge of Jewish history and biblical interpretation allowed him to give factual, contextualized refutations of the Christian. I still have some of his comments disproving the claims that Jesus is predicted in the Jewish bible (which Jews refer to it as the Tanach, but  is often called the “Old Testament”).

At the time, I was only coming into my understanding of Tantra as a complete Pagan spiritual system and didn’t consider myself a Tantric. Instead, I called myself a JAP: Jewish-American Pagan. If I were feeling my oats I might get into a “discussion” with the Christian, too. Sometimes I came from a more Kabalistic viewpoint or a Pagan viewpoint.

Once, I described a well-known evangelist as a “fundamentalist evangelical.” The Christian asked which was it as they were not the same thing. He contended a person could be a fundamentalist or an evangelical. On certain issues they may agree, but on other issues they did not. Previously, I had very simplistic personal definitions of the terms: A fundamentalist had certain basic beliefs about Christianity that were very simple, and and evangelical tried to convert people to Christianity. My online opponent’s questioning led to my deeper investigation of those terms. It turns out that  Christian Evangelicalism only dates back to the 1730s. Fundamentalism only dates back to the early 1910s, barely a century ago. Each has their own set of beliefs.

How Many Angels Can
Dance on the Head of a Pin?

This was the type of question asked by some medieval scholars. On the surface it seems to ask about the very essence of the nature of angles: What size are they? Are they physical? If so, do they have to obey physical laws? Since nobody has proven the exact nature of of angels, the question is actually quite meaningless and along the lines of, “If God can do anything, can He create a rock so heavy He couldn’t lift it?” This is known as the “omnipotence paradox.” Although different solutions to this paradox have been offered, they are based on interpretations of words or concepts and can’t get around the basic fact that it’s a paradox and can’t be answered.

And because it can’t be answered, people have been trying to answer it for over a thousand years. They get caught up in the minutiae of size and form rather than what angels can supposedly do. They ignore the nature of angels and play around with their size and color.

The same is true with naming things. We all use names to make understanding things easier. That’s “food.” We eat food. That’s “poison.” We don’t eat poison. Using names in this way can be very helpful. We don’t have to go into the meanings of “food” or “poison” because we know the meanings. The single word explains it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always do that. Sometimes names can be used to disguise meanings. A politician might say, “I’m for better schools” and a voter thinks, “I want better schools, so I’ll vote for him.” But the politician might use the expression “better schools” to mean reduce the number of teachers while the voter thinks the expression means increase the number of teachers. The word hides the meaning.

Christian Vs. Pagan

Some people use terms to discount what others say. If a person identifies as a Christian, a Pagan might ignore the person’s ideas. “He’s just a Christian.” Likewise, if a person identifies as a Wiccan, a Christian might ignore the person’s ideas. “He’s just a Wiccan.”

We come up with our own preconceived ideas about the meanings of words and use those preconceptions to ignore the ideas of others. Those preconceptions can be be around words such as:

  • Christian
  • Pagan
  • Wiccan
  • Heathen
  • Witch
  • Liberal
  • Conservative
  • Moderate

Recently, among various magickal bloggers, I’ve seen this same sort of discussion over terms such as monist, dualist, polytheist, etc.

Really? Is that what you want to do? Stick a label on yourself? Sure, such labels make it easy to identify what you are to yourself, but if other people haven’t read your descriptions about your beliefs, they’re going to apply their own preconceptions to those labels. Instead of the label representing who you are, people can use the label to separate you from who you are. They can use the label, “Oh, s/he’s just a __________” to totally discount whatever you have to say.

It’s not easy to ignore our preconceptions over the labels we have for other people. I’m taking this opportunity to encourage us all to do so. Ignore the label: what are they actually saying? Does it have value? Does it make sense? Do you agree or disagree based on what they present rather than what believe about the label you’ve assign to them?

Right now, in the U.S., if a politically liberal person presents and idea, many politically conservative people won’t consider it because it comes from a liberal. Likewise, if a politically conservative person presents an idea, many politically liberal people won’t consider it because it comes from a conservative. What I’m proposing is that we ignore labels and look at ideas. Are they supported by facts or mere dogma? As long as we’re locked into labels rather than provable ideas, our future may be dimmer than we wish.

* * * * *
Don’t Forget: This Coming Sunday!

My Next Webinar

Sunday, August 18, 2013 
12:00 PM – 3:00 PM Eastern)
(9:00 am–Noon Pacific)

Magickal Self-Defense

I presented this webinar to people around the world earlier this year. Later, so many people wrote and called saying they didn’t know about it in advance or couldn’t attend at the specific time, we decided I should present it again.

What it’s about: The history of humanity is filled with examples of hexes, curses, evil eyes, and magickal or psychic attacks. Although many perceived spiritual assaults are unintended, imagined, or even self-induced, one of the consequences of the growth of modern occultism has been the increased potential of planned, magickal assaults. In this live online workshop-webinar, I’ll share practical techniques to prevent, detect, and rapidly overcome magickal attacks of any type. This is invaluable information for individuals and groups.

Register for this Webinar

This is not a recorded presentation. It will take place LIVE. You’ll see my slides on your computer screen and hear me talking through your speakers or headphones. You’ll be able to ask questions directly either by typing them in or speaking to me over your microphone. I’ll be able to answer them immediately.

How to participate: You and people from all over the world can participate simultaneously. So far, we’ve had people from across North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. However, the number of people who can attend is strictly limited by the software, so I would urge you to make sure you have a guaranteed place by registering as soon as possible. Simply click on this LINK and fill in the form.

I hope to talk with you next Sunday!

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