“Yes” said the little four year old girl when asked if she believed in angels. “Why?” asked the reporter. “I don’t know”, she said. The ABC news segment went on to say how 68% of America believes in angels (1). Wow! Who said the Middle Ages were over?
Why do people not only believe in angels, but often see them as well, while others never do? Like all perceptions, we perceive what we need to perceive. Need range from core biological needs, like seeing color, to psychological needs, such as seeing angels. If an animal’s biology needs to see the color spectrum to thrive, it will; if a person’s psychology needs to see (believe in) angels to thrive, it will.
While many non-human animals see color, they don’t see ‘red’, ‘white’, or ‘blue’. They experience electromagnetic wave length differences, but they don’t experience those names. Nor do they experience ‘angels’. They have no such word to label their experience of ‘this’. As chapter 14 hints, This is called the shape that has no shape. Once the four year old had learned the name, ‘angel’, the belief easily followed. She probably believes in Santa Claus as well. Words such as God, ghosts, angels, spirit, and soul, all reflect an innate sense of what chapter 1 calls The gateway of the manifold secrets; all living things feel this, only we give it names. (See Belief: Are We Just Fooling Ourselves?)
I feel names and words only get in the way of the way, so to speak. If so, why do we cling so tenaciously to names and words? Yes, they are useful, but also exact a price. Realizing the problem names and words pose at least helps me feel the ‘forest for the trees’ (‘trees’ being names and words). The ‘forest’, I feel, is a deep kinship with all living things — from apples trees to zucchini vines, ants to zebras, bacteria to viruses. As chapter 56 says, This is known as mysterious sameness.
(1) For background, Google: Are Angels Real? Live Science.