by Doxian Thump
A little over thirty years ago, while I was walking along 57th Street in Manhattan, I came across an unforgettable sight. A tall man was lying on the sidewalk, his back against a building. He had a sign saying that he was dying of AIDS and needed help. At that time, there was no hope for treating that disease; in fact I believe its cause was not yet known. All that was known was that it infected homosexual men and drug addicts.
It was a cold, drizzly morning in November. The man must have been miserable, lying on the sidewalk. He was struggling to get himself up, but that was clearly beyond his abilities. In fact, it was clear to me that he was dying and would probably not live through the day. My instinct was to go to him and offer him some help, but I was also repulsed by the risks I thought I might be taking.
A policeman stood next to him, watching the traffic with a passive look. I had the thought that he might be waiting for an ambulance to take the dying man away.
About fifty feet down the street, two women stood in the door of a building. They were clearly transfixed by the sight of the dying man. They both stood, staring at him with wide eyes and mouths slightly open, saying nothing.
I guessed that they must have been mother and daughter. They looked very much alike, down to their very light blond hair. The older appeared to be not fifty years old, and the younger in her mid-twenties. They were very well dressed. I thought they might not have been native New Yorkers, because they had not become inured to such images. I wanted to push them through the door and tell them that exposing themselves to such a sight would only do them harm.
When I looked back at the dying man, however, I saw that I had not understood him correctly at all. He was not, as I had supposed, a human derelict, who was dying as a result of his own misdeeds or addictions. In fact, his nature was not really human at all. He may have been human physically, but he was an incarnation of the Archangel Michael. He had been instructed by God to be born as a human in New York, and to get AIDS, so he could learn for himself how human beings in our great and sophisticated age treat those who suffer and die because of what might be regarded as their own sinful failures. To do this, he had to understand first hand how those who were sick and dying feel.
The thought set my mind into motion, as I tried to understand it. Why was it necessary for the archangel to have the experience himself? What did he have to do to get AIDS? Had the archangel been a drug addict? Or perhaps, had I witnessed an archangel who had been engaging in homosexual practices? This was more than puzzling to me. It set off a round of though about the nature of religion, morality, and ethics.
When I was little, my mother taught me that to sin was to understand the will of God and to do something else. If my perception was correct in the present, then it would have been a sin on the part of St. Michael not to have done something to get AIDS. And that would seem to mean that he would have done something normally regarded as sinful to have fulfilled the will of God.
Perhaps, I thought, there were some other way. But I finally concluded that some other way, not popularly regarded as sinful, would not have answered the needs of the situation. I felt sure that an angel could get AIDS without doing something people regard as sinful, as some way doubtless existed, but it would not have fulfilled the directive. He was to find out for himself how people treated him. To accomplish fully what he had been sent to do, there would have had to be no solace in an understanding that he was following the will of God – that would have had to be outside his thoughts. To feel the effects of his situation fully, he would have had to suffer through it without any special hope, without even knowledge of why it was really happening, and without understanding fully his own nature.
Over the years, I have reviewed that scene often. Recently, I read the memoirs of Benson Bobrick, Returning From Afar, and I found that I was not the only one who had seen angels in the city streets. This was something William Blake talked of, also. With that, my mind went once again back to that scene on 57th street, but with a slightly different perspective.
I realized that it was not just the dying man I had initially failed to see. I had not seen the mother and daughter correctly either. They were also not merely human. They were, in fact, two souls taking a big step on the road to redemption – two fallen angels stepping onto the path leading toward their true home. Having been accustomed to lives of wealth, possibly easy and self-indulgent, they were being shown a death with a special meaning. And its meaning could put value into their own lives, if they allowed themselves to see it. I think that in their souls, they understood that Michael was dying for them also.
If I am correct, there was more to the directive that God gave to Archangel Michael. It was not just so St. Michael could understand what people were going through. It was for the benefit of many, each who observed some portion of the way it played out, that they could grow nearer their own divine natures.
We are told not to judge each other for a reason.
Copyright 2020, Metamorphorica