Why Sex with Angels is a Bad Idea

Posted: December 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

Biblical Scholar Jennifer Wright (Boston) has put together the guiding work for everything sexual and Biblical. In her Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire (HarperOne, 2011) Wright assembles a comprehensive portrait of sexual theologies, mores and practices spanning an enormous chunk of Biblical time. It is absolutely solid from a scholarly point of view. She is plain spoken. And she brings to the foreground ancient ways of understanding that lead to many surprising prescriptions.

Bottom line: It’s not that simple. The Bible is not that simple. And sex in the Bible is not that simple.

Second bottom line: There is no Biblical sexuality. There are sexualities.

Third bottom line: What passes for absolute pronouncements on sexuality from the Bible are very often neither absolute nor Biblical.

Back to angels. One fascinating chapter deals with a common theme that is found throughout the Hebrew scriptures, one that makes a few cameo appearances among the New Testament writers: Angels, humans and sex. This is, by the way, the source of many of those “they weren’t really angels but rather aliens” fanciful documentaries.

The most famous passages are found in Genesis, before the flood, when the sons of God (angels) became intimate with the daughters of men (humans). The angels impregnated the human women who bore hybrids called the “nephalim.” These mythical creatures were found in the land, great heroes and eventually ones repugnant to God. This, it was thought, introduced evil and sin into the world.

This also shows up in the character of Enoch (I Enoch)  and the source book upon which it was based, the Book of Watchers. The Watchers were the fallen angels who were leering at mortal beauties.  You are to beware of them, these stalkers, and covering the head and other concealment would be a good starting place. Nothing good ever comes of this divine/human commerce, so avoid it.

So the fallen angels improperly cross barriers, but so do humans. The case in point are the residents of Sodom who, when angels visit Lot and ask for hospitality, demand that the angels be given to them to “know them,” i.e., have sex with them. The sin of Sodom has nothing to do with homosexuality (as the word sodomy developed in popular usage) but rather crossing the line with angels. And Sodom goes up in a blaze of sulfuric smoke because raping angels is a bad idea, and humans and angels are just supposed to stay in their respective places.

There are several subtexts that help make sense of all this, even if you interpret all this mythologically.

The first is that ancient Semites believed that it was dangerous to mix things that are meant to stay differentiated. That would include angels and humans, but also Jews and Gentiles, humans and animals, etc. The second has to do with holiness; the divine presence is dangerous, like high voltage electricity. You can turn on a light bulb, but best not stick your finger directly into the socket.

So what would be a way for moderns to interpret all this today? Angels, sex with angels, children by angels, Watchers, boundary issues with angels? Hmm. Maybe “ancient aliens” would be the easier route! But something does come to mind.

One of the markers of psychic/spiritual/emotional health is the balance that is maintained between one’s conscious life – the ego, deciding, sensory perception – and subconscious/mystical/noetic experience. In many forms of psychosis the perceiving self is drowning in the subconscious contents, overwhelmed by the flood of it all. Reality becomes blurred. They interpret the external world through the lens of these irrational contents, they are “out of touch” with external reality. A balanced personality maintains a connection to both – the perceiving ego and the subconscious depths. One chooses to swim in those depths, to wade in, but knows there is a difference.

If we might compare “angels” to the divine aspects of the depth of every soul or heart, and “humans” to the perceiving conscious ego, one must not have “sex” with angels and lose awareness of that boundary between the two. I have an unconscious, I have a spiritual life, but I know that I am finite, mortal and limited. I know that I have a body. I know I’m dying some day, not immortal.

It could be, in a modern sense, that this is the source of the warning about getting too close; to not lose yourself in something way too big. On the other hand, we long for that divine holiness. It is mediated in different ways to us and we participate in it. But we are not one and the same with it. Grandiose people cross that line and don’t know the difference.

So, next time you meet an angel, have a conversation, by all means. But don’t have sex. It’s just a bad idea.

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