“Remember to welcome strangers into your homes.
There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it.”
“You know, Phil, in Japan, India, Egypt, Babylon, and for the Jews as well, creation came from the primal seas.”
“What are you doing here?” Phil asked in shock. The Archangel Manuel didn’t belong on this beach.
The sun was shining, reflecting in a dazzling mosaic across the chill blue of the Pacific Ocean. The pier was in the distance, people casually ambling its length. The sand was heating up and radiating warmth between his toes. Phil stood there, water draining out of his wetsuit, which was a very normal scene, except for the sudden appearance of the angel.
Phil stuck his surfboard in the sand and unzipped his shorty wetsuit, but he continued to study the angel in human form.
Manuel was wearing a flowered knee-length swimsuit, and he was the picture of tanned muscled perfection. Even his blond hair was cropped to fashionable length. Although, he did bring with him his disturbing, commanding presence.
The angel answered, “You’ve got yourself convinced you’ve won all the battles, conquered all the foes, and now you can connect to Nature by surfing. Guess what? It ain’t that easy.”
Phil picked up his beach towel and dried off what graying, brown hair he had left; then he began on his tanned body. He was getting back into shape, it was true, but it couldn’t hide his weak chin, high forehead, but piercing dark eyes.
Since Phil wasn’t jumping into the conversation, Manuel went on, “So you corrected some of your early programming. And now you surf the waves, recycle your garbage, donate to the Sierra Club, and think those token acts have freed you to resume your yuppie life-style.”
Phil finished drying himself but still didn’t rise to the bait. Arguing with Manuel was a no-win situation.
About then, two young women walked by, each in a string bikini. One of them called to Phil, “Who’s your friend?”
“His name is Manuel.”
“He doesn’t look Mexican,” the other woman observed.
Manuel turned to them and said, “It’s from the Book of Enoch. I’m Persian.”
“How exotic,” the first one said and tilted her head so her straight blonde hair cascaded over her shoulder.
The other one, not to be outdone, smiled a wide Crest-bright smile, “Isn’t that somewhere in Asia?”
Phil turned to pick up his surfboard while stifling a grin. He also stifled the urge to tell these beach bunnies Persia hadn’t existed for hundreds of years.
The first one spoke again, “We’ll be up at the Sheraton later. I’m Bonnie, and this is Kris. You can join us.”
“How nice of you to offer,” Manuel said with genuine affection. “But I can’t stay here long without getting corrupted.”
Kris, the darker-skinned of the two, also shorter and sporting light brown hair with blue highlights, struck a hip-shot pose and commented, “I might be interested in corrupting you.”
“Come on, Manny,” Phil managed without laughing out loud. Then he called to the girls, “Bye, ladies.”
They trekked across the sand as the young women watched them go.
“They seemed nice,” Manuel said. “What do you think?”
“I think you’ve been in the Flesh too long,” Phil remarked.
Manuel thought on this for a moment before saying, “No. What do you really think? They’re nice, friendly humans.”
“Right,” Phil chuckled. “Your angelic presence hit them right where they live.”
“Well, maybe,” Manuel sighed. “Anyway, as I was saying, there is a saying ‘the healthy ego is a correct self-concept.’ You have gotten nowhere close to the ideal. Fixed some stuff at the typhonic level, yes. Dealt with the repression of Nature, a qualified yes. Anywhere near ready to explore the realms of Spirit, a resounding no way.”
They climbed a dirt trail to the bluffs overlooking the beach. Phil’s car was parked in a lot on the bluff.
“So, bottom-line, as you yuppies say it,” Manuel continued, “I’m here to invite you back to my world to continue what we started.”
“If I refuse?” Phil asked as he put the surfboard on the car-top carrier of his Mercedes.
“Well, Phil, I always wanted to meet the wife and kids,” Manuel said with overblown bonhomie.
“You wouldn’t,” Phil challenged, but he knew the angel would.
“What if I told you I’ll never meditate again?” Phil tried Plan B. This was relevant. His meditation practice was the only vestige from his hippie days because it kept his blood pressure down. He was now accomplishing the same goal through surfing. Nowadays, if he meditated, he ended up in Manuel’s heavenly patio. A situation neither he nor Manuel liked, nor did they understand why he ended up there. Manuel figured En Sof, the Great Mystery, linked their brainwaves together just to torture the angel.
Manuel frowned, and his boyish good looks didn’t seem disturbed by the grimace. He said, “There’s more to it this time. Heaven itself is having a problem. The mask of God the fundamentalists have created over time is getting too strong for us. We’re having trouble keeping him confined to his compound.”
Phil paused in his task of securing the surfboard. He wasn’t sure he knew what the angel meant.
“I’m confused. What fundamentalist god? I didn’t know there was one.”
Manuel sighed and adopted a pedantic tone. “It began as a problem monotheistic religions share: there are believers and infidels; the believers adopt an organized doctrine that is simple to understand; and they are less tolerant of other religions. But that’s just the start of it all.
“From there, they go onto identity politics, the primacy of religion over politics, which creates religion as a populist political doctrine. In many ways, it’s a reaction to rationalism and secularism.”
“Okay,” Phil said in response to the brain dump of formal terminology. He strapped the board down and turned to Manuel. “I get it’s a reaction to secular humanism, and probably all fundamentalists are doing that, but Jews, Christians, and Moslems aren’t the same.”
“Fundamentally, they are the same. The details are different.”
Not wanting to argue that point, Phil changed topics. “Where did this mask of God come from?”
“Like I said, it’s always been a feature of monotheism, but the collapse of Socialism in the USSR, the end of the Cold War, and the stunning success of Modernism, which completely marginalizes religion, released the tendencies already there.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Everybody took their new freedom and began looking for a post Cold War identity and found it in their ethnic ones, and that included religion.”
“Huh,” was Phil’s less than brilliant rejoinder. “The Moral Majority’s backlash to the Hippie Revolution.”
“Yep. That was in the US. The god-fearing folk felt like they were under siege and fought back. The same kind of thing happened worldwide for those who followed monotheism.”
“I think I get it,” Phil said with some certainty. “People start scrambling to find where they belong in a post-socialist, post Cold War world. They default to their ethnic groups, which makes sense of the whole mess in what used to be Czechoslovakia. Some portion of those people get radicalized and decide converting or killing the infidels is how they survive.”
“That’s the agenda,” Manuel agreed. “Since these radicals share this agenda, whether Jew, Christian, or Moslem, they all pray to Jehovah, the god of fundamentalists.”
“Okay,” Phil said, now with uncertainty. “What happened to Yahweh and Allah?”
“They’re still around for those that adhere to the mainstream ideology.”
“Huh,” Phil stammered again. “And you want me to do what?”
Manuel went on, “I’m authorized to offer you a deal if you help us sort out and contain the situation.”
“What kind of deal?”
“A get-out-of-hell free card.”
Phil unlocked the car and placed his beach towel on the seat, “Get in.”
When they were both buckled in, he asked, “What do you mean? I’m not going to Hell. I’ve already been there and refused their hospitality.”
“There’s the contract,” Manuel pointed out. “The one you signed before you incarnated this time. Sammael is willing to rip it up if you give us a hand.”
Phil started the car and headed for the highway. His insurance-broker mind was now fully engaged, and he began to work his way down a check-list of questions.
First he wanted to know, “That seems pretty drastic. The situation must be extreme for the head of the fallen angels to consider such a proposal. What’s really going on?”
As Phil turned onto Pacific Coast Highway, Manuel answered, “You know we can’t do anything to the archetypes mankind creates. They’re off-limits to us, especially if it’s also a mask of God. Well, like I said, the fundamentalist God is actually trying to set up shop as Lord of the Physically Manifesting Spirit level. He won’t take ‘No’ for an answer, and we can’t enforce our refusal to let him set up shop. To put it bluntly, the damn thing is running amok.”
Phil laughed at the picture forming in his mind of a patriarchal God-the-Father upsetting the rigid bureaucracy angels developed over eons. He would go with Manuel just to witness the chaos.
But then caution claimed him. Phil was, after all, an insurance salesman. “Why me?”
“You’re human,” Manuel said, “and you’re the only human currently familiar with our organization. All the rest of humanity is either blissfully worshipping their masks of God -- you know, Allah, Reason, the Trinity, and all the rest, or they are busy transcending the PMS level without stopping by for a visit. Or they are hopelessly trapped in the Flesh and incapable of anything but immortality projects. I’m afraid, you’re it.”
They stopped at a red light, and Phil turned to the angel, “You want me to do battle with the fundamentalist God. Right. I’m sure it’s something I really want to do.”
“I’ll help,” the angel promised.
Phil almost choked. Then he started laughing.
The light turned green, and they continued south down the coast.
Manuel wasn’t amused, “Phil, the mess he’s making is getting worse as we speak. He’s building a lake of fire, creating pits to cast people and angels into. The Christian Hell is getting a major remodel. You wouldn’t recognize the place.”
“And how, precisely, am I going to stop a god?” was Phil’s next question.
“We haven’t figured that part out yet,” Manuel said sheepishly. “But we have our best people on it. What we do know is because you’re human, you can actually fight the thing. You can also enlist other retired archetypes to help you. Additionally, you do have the management and organizational skills we lack. What do you say? Give it a try? Do it for me?”
Phil started chuckling again. This was the most absurd proposal ever placed before him -- trouble-shoot the heavenly host.
“I’ll need more than the contract torn up,” Phil said.
“Anything you want, Phil,” Manuel gushed. “When can you start?”
“After dinner tonight.”
“We’ll be waiting,” was Manuel’s final comment. Then he simply disappeared.
Phil drove towards home and remembered the last two adventures with Manuel. The relevant information from those was angels were of two basic kinds: those who served good, and those who served evil. However, he discovered ‘evil’ was merely the decision to remain bound to the Flesh. Fallen angels encouraged this process. Angels who served ‘good’ encouraged man to evolve to a recognition of, then an identification with, the Divine-within. It wasn’t so much the Flesh was repressed in this process, it was transcended. Sort of like identifying with the rider rather than the horse. Devils fought against transcendence; angels fought for it. Both groups, therefore, aided mankind. Devils were the adversary, which Phil found out was what the word ‘satan’ actually meant, that humans had do overcome to prove their right to be at a higher level of existence.
The fundamentalist point-of-view, which Phil was more comfortable with, was much more basic. It was a simple dualism, a rigid system of the elect and the damned (which would be the equivalent of the term Manuel used – infidels). Furthermore, it was grounded in a literal interpretation of the Bible. Phil knew this because he sought comfort there for many years. He knew the agenda. He knew the people. He knew the shallowness of their spirituality. He also knew their fanaticism, and that’s what worried him. How would he face the mask of God, the archetype, all of them created through their collective need?