I've just returned from a lunchtime sojurn to the local branch of Waterstones; purveyors of fine books to the gentry. While looking for a copy of Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole, I came across a whole shelf full of books which were labelled as "Angel Studies".
Yes. That's right. "Angel Studies". Now, this annoys me on many levels [a statement which will not surprise those of you who know me].
This branch of Waterstones carries more books about the study of angels than it does on plays and theatre. Presumably there is some economic logic behind this decision. I can only assume that the majority of Andover residents are more interested in the lives, loves, habits and anatomy of fictional, non-corporeal beings than they are in the more tangible theatre arts, which many would argue have a measurably beneficial effect on people.
This is hardly surprising - from what I see on my luncthime wanders through Andover town centre, most of its residents are too sick, or too fat, to walk on their own two feet and have to rely upon the horrifyingly ubiquitous "mobility scooter" to get from the dole office to MacDonalds. So, unable to squeeze into theatres and confronted by their obese mortalities, belief in angels is presumably a beacon of hope for the local population. Evidently, the lard-arses think, Gabriel or Metatron are bound to stop whatever important tasks they are currently involved in (polishing harps, chatting-up cherubs, picking fights with the seraphim) and whizz down to Hampshire to magically whisper this week's winning lottery numbers into the ear of a fat fop who can then pay for a new gold-plated charity chav-chariot.
Or maybe I'm being a little unfair. Maybe angels are actually a perfectly valid area of academic study. After all, according to the flap of the book which I examined, the author was holder of the post of Professor of Angel Studies at a UK university. Unfortunately, I was unable to take note of exactly which UK university as at that point I had dropped the book in shock and reeled, vomiting with horror, out of the shop.
Just let that sink in, for a moment. There is a university somewhere in this country which pays someone to pretend to be an expert in a non-existent being. And this is not a religious job; from the (admittedly brief) information I was able to ingest this study of angels is the sort of wishy-washy, airy-fairy branches of study of 'spirituality'. A foul-smelling and meaningless catch-all umbrella designed to cover every area vague New Age rubbish: dream-catchers, tarot cards, dream analysis, ear candles, aura cleansing, etc, etc.
While I'm pretty much an atheist, I understand why people are convinced by religion, but none of these angel things are really based on any long-established religious beliefs. They just cobble together Christian and Muslim tradition, apocryphal tales and New Age made-up nonsense to peddle false hope to the credulous.
These books on Angels claim that you will be able to "summon" various beings (12 of them, according to the book that I was sick on) who are able to help you. [Why only 12? And why do they have specific jobs? And why do you have to tape-record special incantations to summon them, while surrounding yourself with very specific crystals and minerals depending upon which winged-beastie you will be conjuring up? Why? Well, we know why. Because it's bollocks, that's why].
Part of me doesn't begrudge that people actually make a living out of peddling this nonsense. If you're stupid enough to believe in angels, mediums, psychics, tarot, crystals, etc, etc, then feel free to give your money to the charlatans. But it angers me that universities, night schools, community colleges, etc, employ these people and refer to them as 'experts'. Some time ago I was looking for an evening class to improve either my photography or my guitar playing. I couldn't find a local one that was suitable, but I was able to find dozens of courses which would teach me about angels. And all this in an age where scientific research in this country is severely under-funded and factual knowledge is somehow seen to be 'geeky' and 'sad'.
Perhaps I could get Archangel Michael to teach me the rudiments of acoustic delta blues guitar playing...?