Shoulder angels.

We’ve seen them in cartoons, movies, and even on comic book pages. But have you ever stopped to think about where the concept originated?

These small, spiritual figures often appear on a character’s shoulders, with an angel whispering moral guidance and a devil tempting with misdeeds. Interestingly, their representation is rooted deeply in Christian teachings and dates back centuries!

The early apocryphal Christian text, “The Shepherd of Hermas” from around A.D. 140-150, actually provides one of the earliest mentions of this concept.

The text states, “There are two angels with a man—one of righteousness, and the other of iniquity.” These angels aren’t merely passive observers. They actively influence our choices, appealing to our virtues or vices.

Hermas, the protagonist, is advised to differentiate the two by their nature and actions. The angel of righteousness encourages “righteousness, purity, chastity,” while the angel of iniquity brings forth emotions like anger, greed, and pride.

The text reads further, “When anger comes upon you, or harshness, know that he [the angel of iniquity] is in you.” On the other hand, embracing feelings like contentment or peace is a clear sign of the angel of righteousness’ presence.

While the idea of shoulder angels might be dramatized for entertainment today, its origins are a profound reflection on human conscience and moral duality.

Which angel is guiding you today?

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