THE ANGELS AND US by Mortimer J. Adler


Email this review


A curious, mildly interesting survey of angelology. As a ""modem pagan,"" Adler looks at angels not as objects of devotion but as intriguing philosophico-theological constructs. Regardless of whether they actually exist, angels allow us to toy with the possibility of disembodied minds and, says Adler, serve as a device for detecting spiritualistic fallacies in psychology, politics, linguistics, etc. Adler gives a clear enough prÉcis of the vast tradition on angels (sensibly choosing Thomas Aquinas as its classic expositor), but many readers will no doubt balk at taking the imaginative leap of admitting even the potential reality of pure spirits. Hobbes argued that the very idea of incorporeal substance is as much a contradiction in terms as a round square, and Adler never really refutes him. (Adler characteristically neglects the mythological--and highly unspiritual--origins of biblical angels; knowing, for example, that cherubs were once tutelary gods of Baby-Ion, winged beasts with human faces, makes one wonder about their subsequent etherealization.) Still, there's merit in Adler's comparison of angelology with mathematics: both are self-consistent systems based on certain unprovable assumptions. And there's some speculative fun to be had thinking about angels, as when Adler suggests that an angel can occupy a body in physical space without leaving heaven, ""just as a corporation that has its legal residence in Delaware can act in Honolulu without leaving the state in which it is incorporated."" Adler's concluding thrusts at angelism in the work of various thinkers (Plato, Descartes, et al.) score direct hits, at rather close range. All in all, a dry but informative little study.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1982
ISBN: 1439105782
Publisher: Macmillan