Angels, Faith, and Dreams
Todd and Roger are credited with writing "My Angel" on the Utopia album, "Oops, Wrong Planet." However unified Utopia's idealization, the notions behind the lyrics appear influenced by Todd's personal experiences and emotions, which we have seen in other of his lyrics. This album was written in 1977, yet Todd's visions and dreams in "My Angel" remain the same, if perhaps articulated more succinctly, at his writing of the songs in "No World Order" and "The Individualist."
While the man's beliefs (assuming that these are, indeed, his beliefs) have not changed much in the last twenty years, his technique of articulating them has changed somewhat. "My Angel," verbally so like a combination of the song "Individualist," "Time Stood Still" with a little of the earlier written "Hawking" and "Can't Stop Running" thrown in, is much more a psalm than an exhortation or a sharing of private quandaries.
Interestingly, the Biblical Psalms of David echo throughout "My Angel." But where David's Psalms are religious encomium to "The Lord God," TR confines both wonder and praise to self and an angel--an oversoul, or higher self, if you will. The first stanza leaves no doubt about this individual's path in life:
Walk the line It's not easy I must stand alone It's the kind of a life I've chosen Right or wrongMetaphysics recognizes the freedom of choice a physical personality owns. Consciously choosing a particular path in life can hasten or delay spiritual growth and understanding. However, a metaphysically-enlightened path is often met with scorn by others with traditional religious beliefs because metaphysical experiences are wholly subjective, and can give rise to doubt about their source to even to the one experiencing them.
The devout David, to whom the writing of the Psalms is attributed, spoke from a personal, awed perspective, and his praise was to his God who caused all things. "My Angel" uses Biblical imagery and vocabulary to achieve somewhat the same sense of awe over the metaphysical mechanisms of physical reality.
Metaphysics does not deny the existence of God or the value of the Bible as an instructional, inspirational work of literature that holds many truths, yet metaphysical theory is humanistic without doubt. "The Individualist" looks at life in from this perspective, and we can see early elements in "My Angel." Compare the first stanza with lines from "The Individualist" below:
I must stand alone [cause i got a special answer meant just for me somewhere in my immediate vicinity] It's the kind of a life I've chosen [i got to know why i wanna know what i wanna know why do i go where the others won't go?] Right or wrong [my eye is on the prize that's in disguise that you can only theorize but i can utilize to rise above the lies about reality]Many beliefs usually thought of as 'religious' are, to metaphysics, simply laws. For example, the law of grace can cancel or lessen certain negative karma. Grace is all the positive stuff in your karma account. The second stanza of "My Angel" refers to having "fallen from grace.'
I can feel Near me always Something to live up to Someone to depend upon When I have fallen from grace When I grow weak from the pace I can feel the breath of gentle wings on my faceThe "Something to live up to/Someone to depend upon." in this stanza could be God, but more likely, as the careful inclusion of 'something,' along with 'someone' indicates, the speaker refers to a higher self, or oversoul, he feels is spiritually present but of which he cannot confirm existence. David's Psalms have somewhat the same tone, if a bit more flowery and lacking any doubt as to the identity of his protector. Consider Psalms 36:5-7:
Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast. How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
Comparing the two may seem quite a reach. More obvious is the fourth stanza's reference to New Testament images of resurrection:
And when the world closes in around me Then my angel Will come and roll away the stone Like a hand reaching down from the heavensEveryone who is familiar with the Christian Bible will recognize the images of angels and of Christ's arising from his tomb in the third line of this stanza, "Will come and roll away the stone":
Luke 24:1 - 5 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
This image is one of divine help for one individual in the form of "two men in shining garments" whose origins and intent are unrecognized by others. The situation described is not a great departure from Old Testament ones in which God aids one of his devout, yet the fear experienced by Jesus's followers underscores, I think, the author's aim of demonstrating the difference between the era of God's active intervention in the affairs of men and the new era ushered in by the coming of the Christ spirit, who would then intervene on God's behalf (and in whose name a new religion was formed). Old Testament believers knew full well when God intervened--pillars of fire, parting of water, floods, plagues of locusts,--these were the norm. The rolling away of a stone covering a tomb is much less on the scale of divine acts.
But again, elements of this stanza remind of David's Psalms, as well. The last line, "Like a hand reaching down from the heavens," evokes the Old Testament image of divine intervention and deliverence, often represented as "the hand of God" :
Psalms 37:24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.
Psalms 144:7 Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children
That both Old and New Testament images are used in "My Angel" fits very well with metaphysical theory in that guidance here is spiritual in nature, intended for one individual, and is no less potent or important because of this subjectivity. The next two stanzas continue this Old/New Testament combination of images:
And when the darkness falls all around me Then my angel Will come and draw aside the veil I am safe in the arms of my angel Anywhere Anytime In my mind I know That a pair of sweet eyes is watching me Wherever I goIn these two stanzas David's type of praise most resounds. The metaphor of darkness ("when the darkness falls all around me") is often used in the Old Testament to describe conditions from losing one's way spiritually to death itself, whereupon sinful man then fearfully faces God's judgement. No one can escape being found by omniscient and omnipresent God:
Psalms 139:9-12 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
Psalms 139:7: Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
The speaker is not so unlike David in his faith: "In my mind I know/That a pair of sweet eyes is watching me/Wherever I go."
The word 'veil' ("Then my angel/Will come and draw aside the veil") once again conjures New Testament metaphor as found in Hebrews 10:20:
By a new and living way, which he [Jesus] hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.
In TR's lyrics the speaker's 'angel' assists departure from the body by drawing "aside the veil."
The use of 'arms' imagery ("I am safe in the arms of. . .") is not common in the Old Testament, probably not because it is too anthropomorphic, but because it was too sheltering an image for the powerful and vengeful God it would describe. A search of the Old Testament produces too many occurrences of the word 'arms' to list here, but most refer to weapons.
In the New Testament, however, the sheltering arms image occurs most notably in Mark 10:16:
And he [Jesus] took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
Paradoxically, God becomes more intimate with man through the work of his Son.
While most metaphysical theories accept the existence of an all-pervasive power of the universe and a Christ spirit, they also hold the notion that individual souls, as springing from, yet still a part of, that universal power, are creators in their own right. They foster the personalities for whom they have chosen to provide consciousness in physical reality. Individuals are safe "in the arms" of that which created them.
Interestingly, TR uses this 'sheltering arms" image in several songs. "Hawking," which is about Stephen Hawking, a Christian, has several lines containing an 'arms' metaphor, yet manages to include ambiguity concerning the nature of this 'shelter' by changing the sex of God:
"And when god kissed me/Then I dreamed them when I fainted in her arms" ["Hawking"]
In "Can't Stop Running" TR again uses the 'sheltering arms' image:
I knew I was running to something, running to something Into the arms of my God . . . And still I'm running to something Running to something far away Unseen by the others in the herd I can't help running to something, running to something Into the arms of my dream ["Can't Stop Running"]Here, again, the 'arms' images include both a personal ('my') God and a fostering dream which is ". . . far away/Unseen by the others in the herd"--something that is his, yet not a recognizable part of waking self. It is this seeming separateness that brings doubt for both traditional and metaphysical believers alike. Being that it is so steeped in scientific theory, to our society the lack of 'scientific' proof, i.e. the inability to replicate the condition, negates metaphysical experience to all but the experiencer. To the rest of our world, belief based on subjective experience becomes 'blind faith.' Thus, the following stanza reflects the speaker's understanding of this subjectivity and doubt:
Is it real? Am I dreaming? Sometimes I don't know But I want to believe it's so Let me dream onOld Testament authors were not immune to these doubts and disbelief by others. David seems to have understood subjective guidance:
I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search ( Psalms 77:6)
as did Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, in the Book of Job:
Job 33:14 - 17 For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.
Continuing his internal questioning, the speaker in "My Angel" poses a direct question: what is the nature of the source of what I experience?
Is it profane or divine Am I insane? I feel fine I can close my eyes but I still see it shineIs it an integral part of physical life or is it specially given from God? Do I imagine it? I don't think I'm deranged. I can ignore it ("close my eyes") but I still see it helping in my life.
David must have had similar questions, yet his faith was strong:
For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light. (Psalms 36:9)
That the theme of TR's dream hasn't changed much in twenty years can be seen in "Time Stood Still" from his NWO album:
This is the light I stand in the glare of I'm here and I'm there, but I'm always aware of Singin' the song in the back of my mind Something mysterious, something divine ["Time Stood Still"]
Yet the song "Proactivity" from the same album indicates an evolved understanding about the same old 'dream.' Not content anymore to sit and watch the light shine, he has decided that life in the physical requires action. In essence, passivity, no matter how spiritual in origin, will not effect enough change in the physical world:
My new fashion is the ultimate reaction/Proactivity. . . Now you're just hoping to blend in. . . . I can't digs it, no one else is gonna fix it. . . Air keeps stinkin' while we sit here thinkin'. . . No activity, proactivity yeah/Keep on fakin', it's a fake world you're makin. ["Proactivity"]The dream, however, is intact:
My mistake, my philosophy busted I watched my future become encrusted I had a dream, but I refused to trust it Now I've finally sussed it ("Proactivity")Does it seem strange that I liken TR to an Old Testament singer of psalms? TR's psalms aren't for a particular deity and, while his imagery is related to biblical metaphor, he is not proclaiming biblical situations. He uses familiar metaphors to forge a decidedly spiritual connection. His joy is in living with a certain knowledge and the abilities to strive toward fulfilling his dreams. Nevertheless, his abilities are much the same as David's, who is said to have written:
I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. (Psalms 144:9)
All biblical quotes are from World Literary Heritage CD-ROM. They don't list which version of the Bible they published--sorry.