Angels walk among us
“I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.” ~ TOBIT 12:15
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the youngest son of JRR Tolkien, Christopher, joined up to become a fighter pilot in Britain’s Royal Air Force. As the war progressed, Tolkien and Christopher wrote many letters to each other, sharing their common spiritual beliefs about heaven and angels. A deeply religious man, Tolkien found great comfort in praying for his son’s safety.
One day in the winter of 1944, the author was praying as usual for his son when he experienced what he later described as “an extraordinary vision”. In a letter to Christopher, Tolkien later wrote that he had been granted a mystical revelation of the divine light that links every human soul directly to God. For the first time in his life, he had become acutely aware of the fact that every soul had its own guardian angel.
“Not a thing interposed between God and each creature,” Tolkien wrote to his son, “but God’s very attention itself, personalized … I received comfort … (and) have with me now a definite awareness of you poised and shining in the Light.”
This amazing vision helped to sustain Tolkien throughout the final years of the conflict until his son returned safely home. Tolkien’s glimpse into the angelic realms on that grey November day also inspired him to complete his literary masterpiece The Lord of the Rings and the legend of Middle Earth and a Hobbit called Frodo Baggins was born. As fate would have it, years later it was to be Christopher who completed his father’s last book, The Silmarillion, left unfinished at the author’s death in 1973.
Yet Tolkien’s touching angelic encounter is far from unique. Throughout history, the lives of countless men, women and children have been changed forever by meetings, visions and even dreams of these spiritual, luminous beings. Spanning many faiths — be it Judaism, Christianity, Islam or even New Age spirituality — stories of angelic intervention in human affairs are legendary and abundant.
Angels remain key helpers in responding to God’s will. They guide us, protect us and sometimes even call us to take specific action when no action seems necessary. They do not negotiate — unless God tells them to. They are not to be worshipped — despite much misplaced contemporary advice in some quarters — and nor do they decay or die, as their essence is fundamentally and uniquely spiritual. They are, as the Jewish mystical teaching, the Kabbalah, informs us, inhabitants of Heaven, composed of fire and water. Importantly, they possess no will of their own as the Will of God operates through them.
The main function of an angel is to bear witness to the Truth. The “Truth” being that God is with us and for us.
Meet the angels
Angels are called alternatively by their Hebrew title of malakh. In English this means “messenger”. In Greek they are angelos. They are also known by their individual names (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael etc) and are generally grouped into orders (seraphim, cherubim and so on), though most angels will have more than one name and can belong to more than one order, which has presented something of a challenge to angelographers across the centuries.
Haniel, the chief of the order of Principalities, for example, is the “tallest angel in Heaven” but also goes by the names of Anael, Anfiel, Aniyel, Anafiel, Onoel, Ariel or Simiel. The Archangel Michael, who fought and defeated Satan, the prince of evil angels, in some quarters also passes for “the glory” of the Shekinah, that mysterious pillar of light and dust sent by God to guide Moses and the Israelites in their Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. Raphael (which means “God has healed”) was originally called Labbiel and is set over all the diseases and wounds of the children of men. He is charged, according to The Zohar, to “heal the earth”.
It has been said that all the Heavenly Host know what is to happen to mankind and that they can observe events in this world as they unfold on a cosmic scale — in many instances, as foretold in the Book of Revelation, one of their primary tasks is to precipitate these events.
The three angels who visited Abraham told him that his aged wife Sarah was to bear a son, that Abraham’s brother Lot was to be saved, while Sodom and Gomorrah were to be destroyed. Later, angels also saved Hagar and her child, announced the birth of Christ and, three days after His crucifixion, told astonished women at the empty tomb of His resurrection from the dead. They even led the apostle Peter from prison despite his being chained to two guards and under constant surveillance.
Yet angels are not all “sweetness and light” — a common misconception that, unfortunately, continues to be perpetrated by some writers today.
In their protective roles, angels can be the fiercest of warriors and the swiftest of rescuers. When God passes justice on injustice, angels are often the ones who carry out the sentence. Jesus speaks of little children as having their own angels who look upon God in Heaven, while the Archangel Gabriel revealed to Mohammed that God was shielded by thousands of veils of light and darkness, a cosmic, vibrating energy source making God the essence of all life in the universe.
As for Satan, Revelation reveals that at the end of this world as we know it, God will simply send an angel from heaven with a large chain to bind up the Devil and thrust him into Sheol, the pit of Hell, for eternity. His constant companions are to be fellow sinners, along with the Beast and the False Prophet.
Mark Twain once quipped: “I have been on the verge of being an angel all my life, but it’s never happed yet!” And yet, humour aside, we are reminded by Saint Augustine that every visible thing in this world “is put under the charge of an angel”. And this is something, I personally believe, that we should never forget.
The Essenes, that ancient Jewish sect who lived around 2000 years ago on the shores of the Dead Sea, were especially skilled in angelology, or the study of angels. This group believed that by communing on a daily basis with angels, both physical and spiritual wellbeing could be achieved. Although the Essenes were but a single link in a secret chain of ancient knowledge or gnosis, this sect is believed to have written most (if not all) of the Dead Sea Scrolls in which feature the names of many angels and the roles they play in shaping the lives of human beings.
Despite our modern “scientific minds” and “healthy scepticism”, the plain truth is we are simply fascinated by angels. In 1993, Time Magazine carried out a rather unusual survey of the American people called ‘Angels Among Us’ and it was revealed that a staggering 69 per cent of those polled believed that angels existed and had a fundamental effect on people’s lives — with one in three people openly admitting they had had an “angelic encounter”.
Angels in religion
According to religious texts, angels are definitely real and not the figment of an overactive imagination. Yet, despite much artistic license, they are often seen as Jacob saw them — as luminous beings without wings. In Islamic tradition, the prophet Mohammed received the words of the Koran from the angel Gabriel (known as Jibral), the Spirit of Truth, and believed nothing could occur without the presence of angels.
Angels, we are told, pray for us and are among the unseen in “all that is seen and unseen” of the Christian Nicene Creed. They exist to praise God and to bear the message and task for which God sends them. They appear to people of all religions, or even of no religion at all, when God wants these people to listen.
Angels remain the essence of love and joy that pours out from the heart of God. They flock around the universe in their millions, as numerous as the stars in the heavens, and are dedicated to serving the needs of free-will entities (humans) so we may experience the same level of unconditional love as they do. Everyone has angels about them constantly and without exception, and they are eager and excited about the opportunity to communicate with you.
There are many ways to contact angels, but the most powerful and direct way is through prayer/meditation. It is important not to praise angels, but to open a dialogue with them on a daily basis and whenever the need arises.
Although most people may not be able to see the Guardian Angel allotted to them at birth, angels are always by our side. As beings of free will, we have chosen our ability to exist with unconditional love by gaining much experience through many lifetimes (reincarnation) and many varied forms of existence. Angels have been created to counterbalance any energies or actions that move us in the opposite direction to love so we will eventually merge with our true essence and attain the state of Nirvana — the path Buddhists believe leads to the cessation of suffering and the dissolving of desire, hatred and illusion.
Some signs of an angelic encounter are the sensation of being enclosed in a circle of love, of finding a tiny white feather, a powerful feeling of warmth and comfort, the appearance of a bright colour or light within the mind, a tingling in the air or on the hands and even the smell of a sudden light, delightful scent, often like no fragrance the person has ever smelt before.
This is a true story. Melanie is a single mother with two children. One morning, while driving to work, she came out of the main highway to find herself directly in the path of an oncoming truck that was speeding rapidly towards her. She flew into a panic, as she knew she was going to be hit. At that moment, all she could think about was her two small children and, momentarily, she closed her eyes and prayed.
At that precise moment, the truck brushed past her, missing her car by centimetres. Although she was badly shaken, she kept driving. Within seconds, the most exquisite gush of the scent of roses filled the car interior and Melanie began to calm down. To Melanie, this was the most miraculous aspect of the entire incident, as it was the dead of winter and she had opted not to wear any perfume that day, and her car windows were all closed.
Houston, we have an angel
Over the years, it has not been unusual for NASA astronauts to report angelic encounters. There have been stories of angels hovering over astronauts on spacewalks, while others have sighted angels in orbit flying outside the windows of the spacecraft itself. Airline pilots facing the trauma of difficult landings and frantic with worry have also reported angelic sightings. In one case, cockpit recordings revealed the tremendous sense of calm that came over a crew as they successfully averted a crash. On the tape, the men talk of an unidentified object flying alongside the plane, with the pilot clearly describing that object as being “an angel” outside the plane’s front window.
Angels as guardian spirits
Angels also exist in the natural world of fairies, elves and sprites, though they are not known by this name. Many indigenous people have long been conscious of guardian spirits who look after the wellbeing of animals, plants and even the land itself. In the hierarchy of these nature spirits exist devas — a Sanskrit word for “shining ones” — the highest order of spirits. Many New Age spiritualists view them as angels of the natural realm whose task it is to maintain the harmonious balance of this world, as well as teach people to protect rather than pollute the environment.
The Findhorn spiritual community in Scotland is a prime example of a human partnership with devas. The Findhorn story is not just an extraordinary one, it is a beautiful, touching and exquisite portrayal of what can be achieved when higher energy beings and humans interact in a positive way.
The Angels of Findhorn
In 1962, Canadian Dorothy Maclean, together with her friends Peter and Eileen Caddy, moved to a desolate area in northern Scotland with the aim of living a life of total surrender to God. As they struggled to plant a garden in the harsh terrain and even harsher climate (Findhorn is situated 970km south of theArctic Circle), Maclean found herself being contacted by the devas of the individual plants she sewed. As she brought her personal energy field into alignment with the vibrations of the plants, the most amazing things began to happen.
She and the Caddys grew 42lb cabbages, 8ft delphiniums and other incredibly large plants — all without the aid of fertilisers or pesticides! Soon, the media heard about Findhorn and people began to flock to the remote community in search of spirituality. Yet, one of the most interesting aspects of the Findhorn story is the fact that many others (notably park rangers) told Maclean they, too, had experienced contact with nature spirits but had kept silent for fear of ridicule.
As Maclean later wrote, “Almost immediately after my first plant contact, I became aware of a presence that seemed to be in charge of the area in which we were living. I called it the Landscape Angel and it became my mentor regarding various approaches to gardening and how to co-operate with the devic realm. It, as well as the God within me, often urged me to contact other members of these other dimensions, and I gradually attuned to angels of qualities, such as an Angel of Serenity and an Angel of Sound, as these came up in my life.”
Maclean’s amazing discovery of angels that preside over the smallest things in this world is exciting and uplifting, but a word of caution must be sounded before we get too carried away — for just as there are good angels, so too are there bad angels. Without this significant knowledge, no exploration of angels would be complete.
For a comprehensive history of evil angels, we must now look at the Book of Enoch. This ancient book, once a fundamental part of the Old Testament (and known to have been studied by Christ), later fell into disfavour with powerful theologians precisely because of its controversial statements on the nature and deeds of these fallen angels.
Despite being banned, burnt and cursed, the Book of Enoch found its way back into circulation about 200 years ago through the Scottish explorer James Bruce in 1773 when he discovered the ancient text in a monastery in Abyssinia, now Ethiopia.
According to the prophet Enoch, Satan was at first a good angel created by God, who in company with other angels “became evil by their own doings”. Through misuse of the gifts of intellect, Satan declared himself to be as great as God and led a rebellion of angels against the celestial order. Defeated by Michael, the devil and his followers were tossed out of Heaven and fell to earth determined to ruin God’s creation, Man. A second fall, as told by Enoch, followed soon after.
This, the fall of the Watchers or Grigori, is the story of the angels who defied God by mating with the beautiful daughters of men. Originally created by God to be the first guardian angels of mankind, when they defied the Creator and took wives for themselves, they bred demons called Gibborim, physical giants of extraordinary power and intellect possessing six fingers and six toes. (The Philistine warrior, Goliath and Og, the King of Bashan are notable Biblical examples.) The appetite of these demons was so great that they took to eating all animal and bird life, as well as human beings, on the planet. It is here that we see the emergence of the vampire, a creature of great evil — unlike those in recent media portrayals.
This interference by Fallen Angels is widely regarded as the birth of evil in the world and Enoch is entrusted through a series of visions to intercede for them and warn them of their final horrible fate — everlasting torment in Hell.
There is little doubt that angels exist (I certainly believe in them!) and that their roles as either protectors or demons is played out here, among us and with us, in these earthly realms. One of the more beautiful sayings in the Kabbalah tells us that God knew — even before He had created man — that the angels would fall, that man would sin, but that His love for us was so great that He created us, anyway, certain that we would find our way back to Him.
Before leaving this topic, the angelic encounter of the great civil rights leader, the late Martin Luther King, deserves mention. At the height of the civil rights movement, when Dr King and his wife were receiving daily threatening phone calls, he went into the kitchen late one night to make himself a cup of coffee and began to pray. Discouraged, fearful and totally exhausted, Dr King told God, “I just can’t face it alone!”
Then, as he later wrote, he knew that suddenly he was not alone. He felt a comforting presence and an inner voice spoke to him telling him he wasn’t alone, that the fight for justice must go on. The next morning, King felt tired but happy and peaceful. He felt that no matter what was to come — even if he was killed — he must continue to meet hatred with love, violence with non-violence, and that his dream of universal fraternity could one day be a reality for all mankind.
Claire Porter has been a freelance investigative journalist for the past 30 years and has a special interest in the dynamics of human healing. Her first book 70,000 Veils: The Miracle of Energy is available from O Books.