FreePsychArticles #9   “Angels on The Head of a Pin?”

As a child I heard there was a discussion among the clergy of past days addressing the question, “How many angels were there on the head on a pin?”   I laughed and scoffed at the idea and couldn’t believe anyone, especially educated people could consider such a question.   Many years have passed and in recent days something similar has come to my attention.    The last thing I would have expected is a question of “How many Angels?”  Yet, this is the topic of the current article.

Dr. Igal Goodman, of Netanya. Israel, a clinical psychologist and close friend told me a story of how his study of Torah and the Talmud gave his clinical work in positive thinking a whole new spin.  The following attempts to bring to light his chidush (new & fresh  observation), with his permission,  on angels and positive thinking.

Dr. Goodman told me about a study done not long ago, that among other things observed the average number of thoughts that pass through the mind daily.   With the aid of electroencephalography the study approximated about “50,000 thoughts per day” on average.    We’ll return to this later.

According to the sages,   and notably the Maharsha (medieval rabbi and sage) wrote in his book “Chidushei Aggados” an explanation for the sentence in the talmud (Makkos): “From the Torah, from the Prophets, and from the Holy Writings, we can derive that in a way that a man wishes to go, in that way {they} will lead him…”

“They” refers to the angels that are created by man’s deeds.   Accordingly “Every thought, expression and action of a person causes an angel to be created: if evil, G-d forbid, destructive angels are created.  If they are meritorious, good angels are created.” It follows that good thoughts create a positive (spiritual) advocate while bad ones create critical or judgemental ‘angels.’

Let us return to the modern world of clinical cognitive-behavioral psychology.    It has been well-demonstrated across the vast field of psychology. psychiatry and neurology the simple fact that thoughts, speech and action leads to the emotional state of each of us.  As we act, so we feel.   Usually, consciously or not, our thoughts give rise to our speech or subsequent behavior.  So, what we think has a great bearing on our basic emotional stability and sense of well-being.

On the other hand, if we allow our emotions to dictate how we act, and what we say,  we open ourselves up to great risk.   Like the dog who basically just wants to have fun, almost exclusively follows his own emotions or instincts.   This might lead, unfortunetly, to a dash across a road after a ball or some other misadventure.   When we follow our feelings and what they seem to dictate, it’s as if we put the collar and leash around our own necks and hand the dog the handle signaling him to “walk us.”   No one would actually do this but if we feel we must respond with anger because we feel angry, or stay in bed because we don’t feel we can face the day, we are in essence doing just that.

We want to feel fully while acting under the guide of our better judgement and our intelligence.   If we do what we must do, and know we will feel better afterwards we will be making the right decisions.  By the way,  the word for righteous (being right or correct) in Hebrew is tzadik.  And right(eous) behavior leads to peace of mind and joy.

One last word on angels:  I assume the idea of angels has a broad set of different definitions and beliefs.   For the purposes of this article an “angel is a spiritual operative much like a simple computer program.    The “good angels”are designed to assist and help one move forward toward beneficial goals while “bad angels” tend to undermine or distract one from those goals.  For some they are conceptual constructs and others spiritual realities.

Regardless of where you are,  through the thousands of thoughts you have throughout your day,  you should try to focus on positive things, happy thoughts, and make the best of as many as possible.   Try to make all your angels be the good ones for your own good, not to mention everyone around you.

If you enjoy these articles please forward them to your friends and family.

Gershon Freedman, MD

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