In the company of angels
“Be not afraid to have strangers in your house, For some thereby have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
A few years ago in Perth, Western Australia a rather unusual live art exhibition took place. It featured male and female actors dressed, in a variety of costumes, as winged angels. The “angels” were scattered throughout the rooms of a series of fairly ordinary-looking suburban houses and office blocks located throughout the city and specially chosen for the exhibition. They were also placed in a variety of postures – standing, sitting down, reading, kneeling in prayerful contemplation or simply sleeping, all in total silence.
The exhibition was extraordinary for the way it touched the hearts and lives of not just the curious (and equally silent) members of the visiting public, but for the way it came to affect the participating actors as well. All spoke afterwards of a feeling that their lives had been transformed in unique and highly individual ways.
Just what is it about angels that fosters such transcendence of the human condition? For, make no mistake about it, despite all our healthily sceptical “scientific minds” as a species we are quite simply fascinated with angelic and luminous beings. In 1993, a special TIME Magazine survey revealed that an astonishing 69 per cent of the American population believe that angels exist and have an affect on people’s lives – with one in three people saying that they had witnessed the presence of these celestial beings. Similar surveys undertaken in other countries have produced almost identical findings.
Perhaps that’s why any mention of angels in books, movies and TV shows is sure to generate a wide audience. Evangelist Billy Graham, author of Angels: God’s Secret Agents, is a staunch angel advocate. So is author Doreen Virtue, whose prolific writings on the healing works of angels have become international best-sellers. The TV drama Touched by an Angel screened for an incredible 10 years and was watched by millions of viewers around the world. As for the baby boomers among us, who can forget the moving Frank Capra film It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), in which the disillusioned hero, played by James Stewart, is saved from suicide by the timely intervention of his lovely, meek Guardian Angel, the aptly named Clarence Oddbody, who challenges Stewart to think about what the world would have been like if he had never been born? Every time a bell rings, cautions Clarence, an angel gets a pair of wings – and Clarence wants to earn his wings pretty badly…
We may be revisiting our angelic “connections” in today’s climate of growing global spirituality, but our relationship with these celestial beings of light, so vibrant with energy, does in fact go back to the dawn of time.
Angels in history
At the Fourth Lateran Council of the Church of Rome in 1215, the profession of faith affirmed that God “from the beginning of time made at once (simul) out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the earthly, and then (deinde) the human creature, who as it were shares in both orders, being composed of spirit and body”.
According to the world’s major religions, there is no question about it – angels are real, not a figment of the medieval imagination. In the Old Testament angels appeared in a dream to Isaac’s son Jacob in human form with no wings or colourful raiment, climbing a ladder between heaven and earth. In Islamic tradition, the prophet Mohammed received the words of the Koran from the archangel Gabriel (“arch” means “chief” angel) and believed that nothing could occur without the presence of angels. In Christianity, angels have been present since creation: they closed the earthly paradise, protected Lot, saved Hagar and her child, stayed Abraham’s hand, communicated the law, led the People of God, announced births and callings, assisted the prophets, proclaimed the birth of Jesus and led Peter from prison.
The 13th century philosopher and teacher, Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) who was remarkable for the way in which he used and developed the legacy of ancient thought, was known as the “Angel Doctor”. Each angel, he professed, was the sole member of its species – “all intellect” and without matter. Emanuel Swedenborg, the 18th century Swedish theologian and scientist, was so obsessed with angels that he spent the last 25 years of his life delving into angelic experiences and theories before arriving at the conclusion that as humans we see angels through the soul. He called this portal an “inward eye” that reflected an individual’s ability to receive goodness and truth. Although he may not have realised what he had stumbled upon and was, in many ways, ahead of his time, Swedenborg may well have been referring to the third eye chakra which is associated with the deep inner level of being that today we call Spirit.
It seems difficult to deny that, as human beings, we are simply surrounded by the adoration and the service of angels. Their beauty and universal appeal crosses the boundaries of caste, creed and religious belief.
The word “angel” is derived from the Greek “angelos” which means “messenger”, and the study of them is called “angelology”. It is from this ancient discipline that we know what angels look like, how they are classified and what roles they play in our lives. In the Middle Ages, angelology assumed such an importance in the everyday lives of ordinary people that farming activities, days of the week, animals, plants, even astrological signs, were all believed to be subject to their own angelic influences. That may seem somewhat quaint, even ludicrous, now but in the light of contemporary interest in Feng Shui and geomancy, angelology may not be as far-fetched as we might think.
Angels have been painted, sculpted and described in literature throughout the ages as having feathered wings, being surrounded by light, ceaselessly chanting glories to God and having the ability to move in and out of the physical realm by appearing and disappearing at will. Without doubt, the largest and most impressive angelic sculpture in the world remains Antony Gormley’s astonishing Angel of the North. Situated on an old pit site on top of a windswept hill near Newcastle, England, this massive metal structure was welded from 200 tonnes of steel and built 20 metres high in the form of a human figure with arms outstretched and a 54-metre wingspan shaped like the wings on a jumbo jet!
But angels also come in tiny sizes too. In ancient times serious scholarly debate was devoted to the question of how many angels could fit on the head of a pin, for instance. The correct theoretical answer is, of course, “all of them” but this is largely an hypothetical question because angels are not on the head of any pin. They stand by our side, look over our shoulders and whisper into our ears their divine messages of comfort or help from God.
They also differ significantly from spirits or ghosts. In almost every culture, the earthbound or trapped spirits of the dead are reported as being chill entities that are transparent and free-floating. Ghosts retain their earthly shells and personalities, as Jacob Marley eagerly tells a cynical Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol, and can be contacted through mediums with messages that are either welcome or unwelcome. Angel experiences, on the other hand, are always distinguishable by their luminosity, warmth and sense of tremendous calm. Everyone is said to have angels around them constantly and without exception and these beings are said to be eager and excited about the opportunity to communicate with us. Their main task is to bear witness to the truth.
Messages from above
In the Tess Theory (aptly named after the angel played by Della Reese in Touched by an Angel), angels are sent by God to bring the truth to people in critical situations. What is the truth? That God is with us and for us. This message can be either a warning or a comfort in times of danger.
While my father was undergoing chemotherapy for liver cancer, my eldest sister Delia would often massage his back with a special and highly pungent liniment. As time went by and my father became weaker, these daily massages brought him great comfort until his death a short time later. Of course life, like a great river, rolls ever on but many years later Delia was driving her young daughter to a train station near their home in London one morning when something unusual happened: just as she pulled into the station car park, the unmistakable smell of heat rub filled the car. Without realising what she was doing, Delia reversed back out of the parking lot and calmly drove straight home, to a chorus of protests from her astonished daughter. As she turned off the ignition, the smell went – as quickly as it had come. The London bombings had started that day and my sister remained convinced that if her daughter had taken that train she would have been killed. Her Guardian Angel, she vowed, was protecting her family.
While researching this article I came across many stories of a similar nature, where angelic intervention had either saved a life or brought great comfort in the dark night of a human soul. Eileen Elias Freeman is the director of The AngelWatch Foundation, a non-profit organisation that serves as a major resource centre on the topic of angels. She has written many books on angels and holds a Master’s degree in theology; her life has also been touched by angels since she was five years old. Her personal experiences are quite simply astounding, but for me the most poignant one was when an angel visited her in hospital while she was waiting to undergo surgery. Freeman had suffered a violent reaction to an antibiotic when she was visited by an angel who embraced her with light, warmth and peace. Within an hour, she began to heal, much to the amazement of her doctors. Following this experience, she wrote the electrifying book Angelic Healing: Working with Your Angels to Heal Your Life.
Over the years, it has not been unusual for NASA astronauts to report angelic encounters. One individual claimed that an angel clearly hovered above him on a spacewalk, while others have sighted angels in orbit flying outside the windows of the spaceship itself. Airline pilots frantic with worry and facing the trauma of difficult landings have also reported angelic sightings. In one instance, 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 describing an angel flitting outside the plane’s front window.
It is said that angels hold the focus of pure love in the universe and that they are able to set up a resonance for the vibration of pure love whenever it is needed. But just as there are “good” angels, so too are there “bad” ones. No exploration on angels would be complete without mentioning this significant fact.
In their protective roles, good angels such as the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael can be the fiercest of warriors and the swiftest of rescuers. When God passes judgement on injustice, these angels are often the ones who carry out the sentence. Michael, whose name is a question “Who is like God?”, is one of the greatest of all angels and is represented in human form as handsome, strong, young and richly clothed in vibrant blue. He is a radiant warrior complete with a flaming sword said to cut through the invisible pranic cords that bind humans to negative emotions, thought-forms and dark entities. It is Michael who, as God’s champion, does battle with the prince of fallen angels, Satan himself.
This war of attrition, of good versus evil, has been played out since time began and has as its main “star” the devil sent to test the will of man – who, unlike the angels, is a free-will entity. And this is where the story really gets interesting…
For a comprehensive history of the Fall of Angels we must look to the Book of Enoch. This book, once an integral part of the Bible and known to have been in existence before the coming of Christ, later fell into disfavour with powerful theologians – because of its controversial statements on the nature and deeds of the fallen angels. Yet, despite being denounced, cursed and banned (no doubt also burned and shredded), with uncanny persistence, the Book of Enoch found its way back into circulation 200 years ago and the story it relates is explosive.
According to the prophet Enoch, Satan was at first a good angel created by God who, along with other angels, “became evil by their own doings”. Through misuse of the gifts of intellect, Satan declared himself as great as God and led a rebellion of angels against the celestial order. Defeated, the devil and his followers were tossed out of Heaven and have subsequently continued to wage war against God by attempting to ruin God’s creation: man. But the story does not stop there. Some religious leaders have pored over the Enoch text and other early works and remain convinced that there were actually two distinct celestial falls – that of Satan and the rebellious angels and that of the Grigori (also fallen angels) who mated with humans to breed demons, giants of extraordinary power and intellect.
Many ancient and contemporary writers have linked these demons to the birth of the mythical city of Atlantis where, as the Greek philosopher Plato takes pains to remind us, the Atlanteans were an advanced but proud people (notable satanic traits). After the destruction of Atlantis, the story goes that survivors were scattered to the far corners of the earth where they continue to plague mankind. These demons, however, have no message of their own to tell, only lies to undermine God’s message. Enoch warns that Satan can come disguised as an angel of light, pretending to be angel but, unlike angels, can either fill you with doubts to divert you from God or puff up your ego.
Unlike their fallen counterparts, good angels do not try to run your life. They do their assigned task and then simply fade into the background. So-called “spirit guides” that keep coming back, manipulating, directing, demanding attention and reshaping a person into their image are to be avoided at all costs. If you feel that you have been affected by any of these negative entities, I would advise you to seek help from a professional healer immediately.
Angels of death
Our destination, say the Buddhists, is rushing towards us. In so many ways, and often without our knowing it, our lives are touched by angels. We are profoundly aware of living in the present – all of our physical senses are attuned to the physical world we inhabit – but life is far from being an open book. Although we exist in the present, angels remind us that our impact on humanity is already shaped. Time is an extension as well as an expression of the mental. The vital life-giving force of Prana or Chi flows throughout eternity; as human beings we are swathed in energy patterns of one kind or another from the moment of conception. All of these energies serve to connect us, via our angels, to God. It is only through the karmic transformation of a Near Death Experience (NDE), however, that some of us are truly touched by the angelic presence.
One of the most incredible NDEs I’ve ever heard about is that of Dannion Brinkley. On September 17, 1975, the US author was talking on the phone during a thunderstorm when a bolt of lightning struck. Instantly, thousands of volts of electricity surged through Brinkley’s head and down his body, throwing him several feet into the air. His heart stopped and he died.
When Brinkley revived in the morgue 28 minutes later, he had an amazing story to tell. After the lightning struck, he said that he had watched from above as loved ones and doctors tried frantically to massage his heart. As his spirit hovered over his body, he had his first glimpse of human auras. When medics proclaimed him dead, Brinkley was already travelling through a dark tunnel toward a spirit being, who led him into a crystal city awash with incredible light and tranquillity. There, he said, he beheld “the most magnificent sight of all”. Brought before 13 angelic instructors in what he describes as “a cathedral of knowledge”, Brinkley was told of events that would shake the world before the year 2000 – including the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the Persian Gulf War.
In his extraordinary book Saved by The , Brinkley was told by these angels that mankind has a choice – the flow of future disasters is not set in stone and love remains the greatest gift one human can give to another.
This is the testament of angels. We live our lives in the company of angels. I believe in angels.