The Descent of Man

Peter Bruegel, "Fall of the Rebel Angels"

Peter Bruegel, "Fall of the Rebel Angels"

Many scores of once upon a times ago, before Broadway was a prairie, before that prairie was an ancient lake, before that lake was a granite outcropping on the proto-continent of Pangea, back when the initial waters were like blood and the land was like nougat, the first angels, now long-extinct, existed in vast and varied populations. There is no known fossil record of these first entities who once ruled o’er the planet, but it is safe to assume they were soft-bodied, translucent creatures, who absorbed food, water and light through the epiphany of their epidermis.  These creatures, it is estimated, could survive centuries, drifting in the nutrient-rich seas, making music with their “gabrielis,” the soft follicle in the middling of the medulla oblongata.  It is also thought that their music served to stimulate production of the ectoplasm, which constituted the ganglion of Angelicum‘s being.

Angelicum had no predators, no competitors for food, and no hardships.

The only known fossil record of our proto-cerubian’s most direct descendants show a troubling resemblance to the seraphim and cherubim depicted throughout Vatican City.   These ancient shales, “borrowed” — rather cunningly, if I might add — from the heretofore impenetrable vaults of the Holy City, show conclusively that the earliest known descendents of Angelicum were the subspecies Angelicum curiosa, the first angel to evolve short fleshy limbs, wings, and —  most significantly — a mouth.

It is still a mystery as to why A. curiosa developed a mouth part, since there was no apparent need — nothing to be gained, nothing to be transcended, nothing, indeed, to be fought, won, or defended.

These early mouth parts were concentrations of chitonous material, likely used to scrape, gnaw or puncture flora, though it is not clear whether such activities were required for eating or for purposes of aggression.  It is, however, quite likely that these proto-mouths gave rise to the first lyric, as remnants survive today within the ectomorphic vestiges of such celestial hand-me-downs as, say, the ad jingle and the pop song chorus; or endomorphically within the relentless — in fact maddening — sing-songs of various psycho-dynamic pathologies, such as OCD.

To the extent that Homo sapiens are believed to have been visited by these creatures, at least to the extent that the Classic Comic Books of the Bible, not to mention much of western pictorial painting, documents such visitations, we know there must have been a few angels in our genetic woodpile, and thus we can trace the germ of our natures, be they terrestrial or celestial (e.g., instinctual or moral.)

One thing is for damned certain, soon after the appearance of A. curiosa, the ganglion of ectoplasm began to change in form and function.  Whereas the ectoplasm had been the organ of ethereal respiration, it now became the organ in which the first shells (ego calcitae) were produced. And it was in the formation of its shell that the species Angelicum fell.  With the hardening of the surface between inner and outer, the ego calcitae became both more necessary and more elaborate. Was it a mechanism of defense or adornment?  Within only a few millennia the answer was mute: there was hardly a whisper in the seas concerning ectoplasm.

It was, clearly, all about shells.

Much as the parallel species mollusca has evolved both shelled (the bivalves and gastropods), and the “non-shelled” (the cephalida family of squid and octopuses, wherein the shell is a vestiginous internal shell or beak), Angelicum curiosa evolved to include both a diverse group of shelled and “shell-less” fauna (usually possessing an internal ego calcitae, or “ego profundis“).

Among them are, yes, Homo sapiens, a diverse group of large intelligent predaceous creatures, with a vestigial internal shell (ego profundis) located within what used to be the ectoplasma region. The head is large with well-developed eyes, and armed with horny chitonous jaws. The hands, with opposable thumbs, are for grasping prey, pushing buttons, casting stones — dubious achievements, if I may say, but you know this.

Whereas the dinosaurs evolved into present-day species of winged souls, often sweet-voiced and cheerfully decorous, Angelicum, alas, once upon a time so very, very full of promise, descended into this hellhole we call “being right.”

Dear God, if you do exist, somewhere in your almighty ether, please close our mouths, open our eyes, reverse the tide.

Bia Lowe is the author of two collections of essays, Wild Ride: Earthquakes, Sneezes, and Other Thrills, and Splendored Thing: Love, Roses, and Other Thorny Treasures, in which this essay appeared. Visit Bia's web page.