Dominion’s Angelology; or, Someone Knows their Theology

Syfy recently embraced an unlikely premise: create a TV sequel to a movie few saw and fewer liked.  Thus, out of Legion came Dominion.

Dominion occurs 25 years after Dominion in a world mostly destroyed by angels.  God turned his back on the world, and the angels believe it is their duty to destroy humanity as punishment.  A single angel, Michael, has taken the side of humanity, believing it was the angels who failed God. 25 years ago, he saved a newborn.  Now, that newborn is seen as the coming Savior, and 25-year-old Alex Lannon has just discovered he’s the child in question.

Dominion vs. Supernatural

In some ways, Dominion’s angels resemble the angels of CW’s Supernatural.  Most of them need to possess human bodies to manifest on earth.  They’re vengeful and dismissive, devoted far more to themselves than to humanity.  In both, God has been silent for some time.  However, Supernatural‘s version of the supernatural generally bears only casual resemblance to traditional views, and the angels are no exception. Its general premise is that mythology and folklore are, at best, poor attempts to understand the terrifying reality of monsters.

Both shows have gone in a more Jewish than Christian direction.  Angels are liberally spread around the Old Testament, frequently there to kick someone’s ass.  The New Testament is largely lacking in angels outside of the Book of Revelation, although Gabriel shows up in the gospels in a messenger role (He’s the one who tells Mary she will bear Jesus).

As an Aside:  The concept of the Chosen One here is more Jewish than Christian as well.  The Christian Messiah, Jesus, is both divine and mortal.  The Jewish Messiah, who has not yet arrived, will be entirely mortal, as is Lannon.

Beyond that, Dominion in many ways sticks closer to source material, at least concerning the nature of angels.

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Universal Structure

The vision of the pre-modern universe was a hierarchical one.  There are three realms:

  • Physical.  This is where we live.  It is the realm of tangible matter, bearing only a spark of the divine.
  • Celestial.  This is where the planets rotate around the earth (this was still the time of the earth-centered universe).  The planets are only partially tangible.  We can see them, but if there was a way to reach them, we would pass right through.  They lack the solidity of the physical realm.
  • Angelic, also called the Empyrean.  This realm is almost entirely divine and, thus, almost entirely non-material.  This is why we generally cannot see or hear angels.

Read more: Renaissance Cosmology, written by me at About.com

Archangel Michael with wings

Archangel Michael (c)Syfy

Hierarchy of Angels

All of these realms are further divided, with lower sub-realms being more material than higher ones, which are more spiritual and purified.  Within the angelic realm are 7 or 9 divisions, depending who you ask.  The most common arrangement was set down by Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite in the late fifth century, so I will work from that.

The highest order of angels, highest to lowest, are seraphim, cherubim, and dominions.  They spend eternity praising and contemplating God.

The next order of angels are the thrones, powers and virtues.  They are intermediaries between the higher and lower angels.

The lowest order are principalities, archangels and angels.  They are the ones most interested in humanity.  When angels appear on earth, it would generally be figures from these ranks.

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There is, however, no common system of associating angels with the different levels.  Some sources make Michael a seraphim, others an archangel.  He shows up in other ranks as well.

Here they refer to both Michael and Gabriel as archangels.  They are low enough to remain interested in humanity, whether for good or ill, but they are high enough to manifest themselves without possessing humans, as the “lower angels” do on the show. (To the best of my knowledge, angel possession is entirely a fictional concept, not a historical one.)

As an Aside:  Michael and Gabriel are the only two angels mentioned by name in the Bible.

But there’s also reference to higher level angels who have, so far, remained out of the fight, basically seeing it as beneath them.  And they mention one of those levels by name: powers.  The power Furiad eventually joins Gabriel’s side of the war.

As an Aside: To the best of my knowledge, Furiad is not a historical angel name, which makes me a little sad, as there are hundreds upon hundreds of names from which to draw.  Most angels names end in “-el.”

Sins of the Flesh

The angels sure do like their fleshy pleasures.  We see Gabriel, leading the angels against humanity, give the signal for an orgy among his fellow angels.  Even Michael lives a life of comfort, residing in a richly appointed room with good food and a lover.

These beings of light have taken on physical existence and are drawn to everything humans are.  Gabriel goes so far as to say the angels deserve the pleasures of the flesh, which has, up until now, been wasted on an ungrateful humanity.

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The never condemn sex, however.  The view of sex as naturally dirty and polluting is primarily a historical Christian concept.  Jews and Muslims as a whole have never had such a hang up about it (although both have rules about when it is and is not appropriate).

Michael gives a seemingly thrown-off line about how important it is for him to not father a child.  I’ve seen one reviewer write it off as a “typical dude thing to say,” but this is Biblical.  The Book of Genesis talks of the nephilim, which are the offspring of angels and humans.  God was really not happy about their existence.  Michael knows he’s skirting a line.

Michael, Alex Lannon, and Gabriel

Michael, Alex Lannon, and Gabriel (c)Syfy

Michael vanquishing Satan

Historical artwork depicting Michael vanquishing Satan

Theologically speaking, angels have no gender.  Gender is about reproduction, and angels don’t reproduce.  However, it was generally accepted that when angels manifested, they did so with the appearance of men, because women were inferior.

Many illustrations of angels are quite effeminate, and here Michael is very much a pretty boy angel, leaving him somewhat androgynous and ageless in appearance.  Gabriel, however, looks much more masculine.  Was that deliberate, physically reflecting how Gabriel has fallen farther from God’s purpose and is more infatuated with physical life?

 

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