Side Quest: Angelus Errare
"Where Angels Lose Their Way"
🔖🔖🔖 ABOUT THIS SECTION 🔖🔖🔖
This is a companion “sidebar” supplement to Game & Word: Issue 4.9. If you haven’t already, please go ahead and read the accompanying issue first. The first section of this supplemental content is available for all as a free preview. To unlock the entire thing, upgrade to a Game & Word paid subscription:
🚨🚨🚨 SPOILER ALERT 🚨🚨🚨
This post is one big, ginormous WALKING SPOILER for Chrono Cross. Also, you should probably read the accompanying article (Issue 4.9) before diving into this side quest.
🔥🔥🔥 CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC ADVISORY 🔥🔥🔥
This piece contains discussions of spirituality and religion, including alternative and non-mainstream belief systems. I make zero claims on the veracity (or lack thereof) of any of the faiths/beliefs discussed here, nor do I pass judgment on anyone’s belief or nonbelief in them (unless judgment is first passed onto me).
Please note that religious texts are often dense, cryptic, contradictory, inaccurately translated, incomplete, hard to find, and wildly open to interpretation (and that’s just the text that don’t require years of dedicated study to even begin making sense of them). As such, it’s highly likely that I’ve likely gotten some things wrong, and I welcome factual corrections and different interpretations of any of the information in this article. Comments for this post are disabled for reasons I hope are obvious, but feel free to shoot me an email (email@example.com) or hit me up on the Game & Word Subscriber Chat.
(That said, if you mean to complain or object to the mere mention of the beliefs I describe, just because they’re different from your own? Then don’t waste your time—maybe you should stop reading and go listen to THIS instead.)
Side Quest: Angelus Errare
"In three respects, demons resemble angels; in three others, mankind. Like the angels, they have wings, they move from one end of the earth to the other, and are prescient. Like men, they eat and drink, propagate themselves, and die.
In three respects, men resemble the angels; in three others, the animals. Like angels they have intelligence, they walk upright, and they speak the holy tongue. Like animals, they eat and drink, propagate themselves, and emit excrement."
~Babylonian Talmud (Chagigah. 16a:7), plus parallel passages (paraphrased)
To get an idea of just how much this notion of humanity constantly straddling the line between “good” and “evil” has been ingrained in our collective mythos, look no further than any of the world’s major religions (and plenty of the minor ones, for that matter). This theme recurs so consistently and with such primacy that it’s practically archetypal.
Much like how Western suburbanites took to Yoga pants, Tibetan singing bowls, and other elements from Eastern religions like incel edgelords at a Gaspar Noé film festival, Western religious imagery (particularly from Christianity, with Judaism a reasonably-close second) abounds in Japanese media. Often, the images are fairly divorced from their original religious contexts or display a superficial connection at most.1
But in Chrono Cross, some of the religious metaphors are quite accurately presented—and even if they don’t quite match up to scriptural canon, they sure as hell nail the folklore surrounding it.
I want to focus on one such metaphor in particular: the place in El Nido where the barrier between dimensions is at its thinnest, where Serge’s dimensional romp begins and where time itself might end, the place he either drowned or was saved from drowning (depending on timeline), and the gateway to the final confrontation with the Time Devourer.
The El Nido locals call this place “Opassa Beach.” But to
Magus Guile, Lynx, and those in the know, it’s known as “Angelus Errare,” which is Latin for “Where Angels Lose Their Way.” But what did Masato Kato have in mind when he penned that name?
To even attempt to answer that question (which, in case the previous 24,000 words in this series hadn’t hinted at, might well be an exercise in futility), we must first answer:
1) What are Angels?
2) How would one “lose” its “way”?
And just in case you haven’t been paying attention: these questions are nowhere NEAR as simple as you’d think!
What IS an Angel?
“They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel ... Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.”
~ Ezekiel 1:15
So, let’s start with the first question: What IS an Angel?
Unsurprisingly, there are many answers, perhaps as many as there are believers in religions with angels in their cosmologies. But to stay on topic, we’ll focus on the angels described in the major Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), the myriad denominations therein, their mystical and esoteric offshoots, and the common images/conceptions of these angels in the popular imagination.
The simplest way to define an angel is as a spiritual being who serves God. However, this is a simplistic and incomplete definition.
After all, humans are also spiritual beings. This concept isn’t restricted to Western religion, by the way—in Abrahamic Monotheism, it’s because humans are created in God’s image; whereas in Gnosticism, Buddhism, and several esoteric traditions, humans always carry a spark of divinity within them. Regardless of why, humans are creatures of spirit (“spiritual creatures”) as much as they are creatures of matter (“material creatures”).
And yet, even the most pious, God-fearing human alive is different than an Angel. This is a rare area of consensus across faiths and even denominations within faiths; although the children of Abraham disagree with each other on many, MANY things, they’re practically all in agreement on this point.
So, then, what differentiates an angel from a mere virtuous human (or even an ascended virtuous human, like a Saint)?
This is where you get into “ask 10 people, get 12 answers” territory, so I’ll go over some of the more common and relevant aspects that make angels… well, angels.
Popular culture tends to depict angels as tall, humanoid figures that dwell in an ethereal and cloudy realm (some call this “heaven,” though the cloud-filled version is more specific to Christianity) close to God. These pop-culture angels, when not disguised as humans, usually have feathered wings, wear loose white robes, have ringed halos above their heads, are proficient harp players, and relay messages to and from God and a select few special people.
This imagery doesn’t do these mighty beings anywhere close to justice. Whereas if you actually read the Bible, Torah, Talmud, or Qu’ran, you get a very different impression of them.
In the scriptures, angels are mighty and majestic beings who possess unfathomable power and are so awe-inspiring that the first thing they tell humans they appear to is, “Be not afraid”; lest their terrifying and otherworldy appearance (along with the intensity of their radiant power) melt the primitive brains of the humans they contact.
Angels do often serve as messengers in the original source material, and they perform that task well. But they’re more than just celestial couriers—they are guardians, guides, heralds, protectors, scribes, healers, and soldiers. They are the Army of God, complete with officers, ranks, and titles, with the Archangels at the top (you may have heard some of their names: Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, Uriel…).
They can also take on many more appearances than the popular “wings-and-halo” getup. They can appear like any other human, an animal, an abstract concept, a geometric shape, or even something so bizarre and alien, a human would even find it terrifying!
Oh, and Angels are also immortal.
In short, despite generally having calm demeanors and preferring peaceful solutions and actions, Angels can kick a TON of ass if needed. And in countless myths and tales (both biblical and folkloric), they do exactly that to the legions of hell, many times over, and on several occasions.
However, despite all this awesomeness, humans still rank above angels in the “celestial hierarchy” (with God, naturally, being at the top), for one key reason: free will.
(Yup, there’s that FATE thing again…)
Angels, mighty as they may be, were not created entirely in God’s image, with the capacity to freely choose between doing good and doing evil. Humans, however, were. And ever since that incident with the apple in the Garden of Eden
cursed gifted imbued humanity with gnosis2 (Greek for knowledge) of the difference between good and evil—a human knowingly and willingly choosing to carry out a good deed over an evil one is going to carry more spiritual “weight” (so to speak) than an angel for whom carrying out an evil deed is literally inconceivable.
[As a neat aside, this also means people actually have the authority to command angels (as well as demons, for that matter)… as long as said people are in good moral standing and their commands are in alignment with whatever The Man Upstairs has planned.]
This leads us to our second question. If angels lack free will—or more accurately, the same degree of free will that humans have (angels are intelligent and sentient beings, not mindless automatons)—how can an angel possibly “lose its way”?