By Peter Fredson
This morning I glanced from my kitchen window onto the sidewalk where a small girl was passing, on her way to school. She was animated in gait, sometimes skipping a few steps. She would stop, make a complete turn, move her lips, nod her head, smile, and continue. Should I have been alarmed that she was psychotic, neurotic, going batty? Not at all! She was at “play,” “pretending,” “making-believe”, a delicious form of entertainment.
Most youngsters create invisible companions, both for amusement and for support. Young girls often have tea-parties for invisible guests, during which they pour out invisible tea into small cups. Young boys may take a stick, which becomes a glittering sword, to lop off the heads of dandelions in glorious battle.
Play, day-dreaming, pretending, and wishing are all part of having brains and being human. Play is not limited to humans. Many creatures recognize the difference between play and other actions. Lions, tigers, bears, dogs, cats, even alligators, distinguish between play-biting and biting to maim. They also are aware that play biting can turn to serious biting in an instant. Puppies may play-bite, then yelp in pain when a bite stretches outside of the play category.
It is not sufficient for a person to be President, but he also play-dresses in a military uniform and struts and swaggers around, pretending perhaps to emulate Julius Caesar. Some people merge fact with fancy to glorify themselves and some cannot seem to distinguish fact from fancy.
People are social animals. They live in association with other people. And if the supply of companions should be disappointing, people can always invent others. They can invent surrogates or substitutes like life-like plastic dolls, statues, photographs, simulacra, and similar devices for emotional support.
Religions exist because of the propensity of humans to invest things, places and circumstances with personalities. They reify entities, like Fate, at the drop of a symbol.
The purveyors of religion, far back in the distant past, created out of imagination hosts of companions, with equally imaginary properties and faculties.They invented companions that are immortal, invisible, intangible, omnipresent, omnipotent, omni-benevolent, omni-malevolent, evanescent, transparent, numinescent, phosphorescent, unintelligible. Some have the ability, like eagles and buzzards to flit about the sky, some can float on clouds, some can go thru walls, can be in several places simultaneously, some wear clothes or sheets or like the Ghost in Hamlet can go about clanking in armor. Some delight in making moaning noises, weeping, shouting, menacing, or frightening.
Many children know that in their closet, or under their bed, is some hulking dark ominous scary ghost or booger-man just waiting to seize them in talony clutches and tear them apart or eat them.
Christians particularly are adept at inventing companions of every size, shape and condition imaginable. Christianity is full of minor gods, besides a big Daddy God who is also his own son and brother, a marvelous 3-in-One invention. Christians did not invent Santa Claus but he is now a major figure of their canon, with marvelous properties and equally marvelous flying animals. He is omniscient in knowing who is naughty and nice, and has notebooks in which he keeps tally of people’s deeds during the year, so he can dispense gifts or give lumps of coal as reward or punishment.
Christians actually kidnapped this Nordic personality and converted him into a deity for service in early childhood as a continuation of make-believe practice and dogma.I’m not sure who invented the Tooth Fairy, probably some corporate executive, but belief in this personality runs very high in Christian families, also for service in early childhood. It has magical qualities, finding a tooth under somebody’s pillow, without being seen or even needing reindeer for transportation. It evidently has its pockets full of coin or paper money to exchange for the tooth. This practice ensures strengthening of belief in similar companions in later life.
One pretense strengthens another.
Certainly the Easter Bunny has remarkable properties. It lays eggs with vivid polychrome designs, in wicker baskets, and is portrayed in chocolate, sometimes hollow, with chocolate eggs, sometimes filled with a marshmallow-edible substance, to the hippety-hoppety delight of young worshippers.
Christians did not invent witches either, but they certainly paid excessive heed to these imaginary figures in the past. Witches are not, by Christian standards, admirable people, but are to be feared, and burned alive or executed in some other brutal painful manner. They cast spells, stir cauldrons, fly about on broomsticks, and cackle fiendishly. So, I wouldn’t really call them “companions”, at least not in the sense of being friendly nice neighbors. Christians executed them by the thousands, and today still mutter about their evil ways and will try to change our Constitution so Christians can again lovingly burn them alive.
You see, they must do that. Their Sacred Book tells them that they must do it, and who can argue with an inerrant Sacred Book personally written by some invisible intangible unknowable imaginary personality? Christians may not have invented other scary entities, but they are avid in touting their existence. Ghosts, ghouls, specters, spooks, phantoms, banshees, polter-geists, spirits, etc., abound in Christianity. One would think that belief in such evanescent entities would have waned over the years, that logic and reason would have tempered superstition, but we have hundreds of books, movies and TV shows affirming that they exist, that they interact with people constantly, and often interfere with their activities.
I’m not speaking about the fictional entertainment of the Harry Potter movies, but about the actual daily affirmations in such imaginary entities. For example, we still have exorcism rituals by priests to eradicate personalities which a psychiatrist really should examine. The effects are real enough to an afflicted person, but the personalities are imaginary.We have a vast array of fictional entities, emanating from many ancient religions, but America is particularly beset by those depicted in the Christian Sacred Book. It depicts angels, demons, cherubim, and a dozen other categories of fictional personalities which Christians invite like the little girl with imaginary tea-parties.Evidently there are “hosts” of them, all around, filling all available space, and like Santa, noticing who is naughty and who is nice.
We also have very nasty companions, demons, devils and imps, who inhabit a very nasty place to hold very nasty people who did not believe in their existence and now are very sorry about that. There is an especially nasty creature, made from the surreal imagination of pastoralists ages ago, that give it horns and hoofs of goats, and make it responsible for every accident and incident and thought of nipples and jiggles, which obviously merit an eternity of screaming in agony.
It is of interest to remark that Satan is the exact reverse of Santa, making for an economy of letters, of a Ying-Yan character.About half of the population of America (spurious statistics) believes in angels, their presence on this planet and interaction with humans. Thousands of colorful statues, illustrations and examples of Angels not only fill the Christian churches, and homes, but are said to help armies win battles, help people have babies, to give succor in time of trouble, to take on human appearance and clothing and walk about on our streets. Christians talk about their “guardian angel” helping them out of some emergency situation.
We now have stories about people who died, but were sent back to earth until they did some good deed as temporary angels.
Christians also have a description of some entities with an idea of their number, seen in their Sacred Book: “I behold till thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days sat: His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like clean wool: His throne like flames of fire: the wheels of it like a burning fire. A swift stream of fire issued forth from before Him: thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him: the judgment sat and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9-10) Now, THAT is a HOST!
Roman Catholic angel tradition was extended in Pseudo-Dionysius’s book “The Celestial Hierarchy” in the fifth century. He invented a nine-fold hierarchical order for supernatural beings as Seraphs, Cherubs, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. Lots and lots, as imagination is not awed by mere numbers.
We also had comedian George Burns playing God Himself, or comedian Jim Carey, with a very mobile face, who was given the Power of God temporarily. Never once, never, was there ever any hint that these fictional entities do not exist in any reality except that of the imagination. Although no one was fooled into thinking that George Burns was really God, the possibility that God is like George Burns was never discarded.
In short, belief and faith in imaginary entities is deliberately manufactured, supported and affirmed in every way possible. But reason and logic and common sense doubting their existence is taboo. No magazine, newspaper, radio or television station dares to even imply that they are fictional. So, if a politician affirms that he LOVES the nice entities, this is by itself sufficient to get him elected as President, Congressman, or Supreme Court Justice. People love imaginary companions, and cannot contemplate life without them. One argument is that if people are happy believing nonsense, then so what?
Don’t worry about it. It’s all Make-Believe. Be happy!