Archive for October, 2012

Readings and Reflections for greater understanding of All Hallows Eve

October 29, 2012 - 12:08 pm 10 Comments


Opening Words


:  From Starhawk   Spiral Dance

“In the Craft, we do not believe in the Goddess- we connect with Her; through the Moon, stars, the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals, through other human beings, and ourselves. She IS Here… She is in all of us. She is the full circle: earth, air, fire, water and as essence- as body, mind, spirit, emotion, and change.”

Chalice Lighting /Caldron Lighting

Calling the Spirit


Heavenly and earthly eternal Spirit, caring mother, beautiful consort, wise old crone…

We gather here to ask you to bless us with your presence- to feel in touch with life’s energies, forces and graces… Goddess, we affirm our need for you and that through you, all life is sacred and we are all heartful and connected. We grateful acknowledge your importance and your presence in the world and in our lives… So Mote it Be!


We are all called to the journey through life and to become a part of it, which means to become a part of one another. Whenever we learn to speak from our truth, share our stories, our circles and our songs, the Goddess returns, and she calls us to our wholeness and to wonder…

Joys and Concerns:

All the emotions and experiences of life can be seen as flowing through a circle… it is gracious and dynamic-one that can spiral up or down, in or out, and includes us in relationship and in change… Today, in this gathering circle, in the community that includes, welcomes, and affirms our humanness with its struggles, challenges, joys and blessings, as we now offer our stories during a time for sharing of joy and concerns….

Closing Words

: From Starhawk Truth or Dare

“Whether we name it Goddess or God, Spirit or something else, its truth is that it does not lie outside the world [like a remote judge] but manifests in nature, in human beings, in their communities [and will be reflected] in the cultural reality we create..” Blessed Be!

Three Uniting Principles: Immanence; Interconnection; Community

Adapted from the writings of Starhawk and adapted from her book, Spiral Dance

[” Immanence means that the Goddess, the Gods, are all embodied that we are such a manifestation of the living being of earth, that nature, culture, and life are all sacred.

Immanence calls us to live our spirituality in the here and now and to take action to preserve the holiness of life on earth, and to live with one another with integrity and responsibility.

Interconnection is the understanding that all beings are interrelated, that we are linked with all of the Cosmos as holographic parts of a living organism. What affects one of us, affects all of us. The tearing down of the rain forests disturbs our weather patterns and changes in the migration of  New England birds. So interconnection  demands compassion, the ability to feel with others so strongly that our righteous passion for justice is itself aroused.

The primary focus of our lives is a shared existence, not individual success, or salvation. Growth and transformation comes from our intimate interactions and common struggles. Community is completely inclusive; all humanity, all the animals, plants, soil, air and water- all the energy systems that sustain all of life. Community is both personal and accountable for all of its interactions.

We cannot reshape consciousness by force or fear, for to do so would only reinforce models of what we are trying to change. We must bring about change through nonviolence, physical and spiritual, towards plants, animals, and other people who share the earth with us. We, who are the witches, pagans, and followers of the Goddess, are called to take a radical leap of faith, towards believing that people, when they are given a dream of new paradigms and possibilities for their lives, will courageously create the needed tools, and hold the needed vision to redeem and reclaim the past, and create a living, compassionate future.


To reclaim the word “witch” is to reclaim our right, as women, to be powerful; as men, to know the feminine within as divine. To be a witch is to identify with 9 million victims of bigotry and hatred, and to take responsibility for shaping a world in which prejudice claims no more victims. A Witch is a “shaper” a creator, who bends the unseen into form, and so becomes one of the Wise, one whose life is infused with magic.

Love of life in all of its forms is a basic ethic of Witchcraft. Serving the life force means working to preserve the diversity of natural life, to prevent the poisoning of the environment, and the destruction of species.

Justice is not administered by an external force; it is rather an internal sense that each act brings about consequences that muster be faced responsibly. An act (like stealing) that harms one of us, harms all of us.

Honor is an inner sense of pride and self respect. Oneness is attained no through losing the self, but through realizing it fully.

All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. Thus rape is an intolerable crime because it dishonors the life force. A woman has the sacred right to control her own body, as does a man. Life is a valued gift. If suffering exists, it is not our task to reconcile ourselves to it, but to work for change.

Magic, ( the act of changing consciousness at will) and ritual stimulate an awareness of the hidden side of reality, and awaken long-forgotten powers of the human mind.


A Samhain New Year Spell

(from Laurie Cabot Celebrate The Earth)


I now speak for all that attend in this time and space, that

this is a time of magic, and we are in sacred space that embraces and consecrates us all…

I ask the Goddess to grant all of us a bright and positive New Year;

that we further understand the wisdom of my ancestors and my past to be used in an ethical way, and that my soul will be filled with gratitude for the Lady and the Lord, that furthers my inner healing, and that restores the air and the water, the earth and one another. I seek harmony and clarity for all!

So mote it be!


Casting The Circle:

By the Earth that is her body; By the air that is her breath;

By the fire that is her bright spirit and warmth of her heart;

By the living waters of her womb… The circle is cast!



Closing Words: From Starhawk Truth or Dare

“Whether we name it Goddess or God, Spirit or something else, its truth is that it does not lie outside the world [like a remote judge] but manifests in nature, in human beings, in their communities [and will be reflected] in the cultural reality we create..”


The circle is open, but unbroken; May the peace of the Goddess be ever in your hearts; Merry Meet, and merry part, and merry meet again! Blessed Be!

Guided Meditation and Body Prayers


    Meeting Hecate


“ Hecate is most often described as the Crone of wisdom or as the three faced lunar goddess who holds the path of the deeper understanding of womanhood within her guidance and within the three major archetypes of that energy: Maiden; Mother; Crone… Her familiars are the the spider; the dog who seems to see or hear her easily in the shadows; and she carries mirrors and moonstones…

Whatever her appearance, or however the energies influence you, she is intimately connected to the Moon, for she is the mistress of the night, and carries with her, all the energies of life especially when the Moon is full… Some say that they can see her, in the shimmering moonlight… moving between shadow and light… She is the Queen of the night sky at this time of year… whose holiday is Samhain- or Halloween, the Pagan New Year of harvest and new beginnings… She presides over our deepest instincts- our drives, our passions, our needs…and She will teach us how to channel them to their highest expression, not repress them where they cause psychic harm… She lives beyond the veil of mere appearances, and often gives us unexpected answers through our dreams…

She is also known as the protector of those who lived on the margins of our society- the unwanted, the rejected… and also represent those parts of ourselves that cause us shame or guilt, fear or guilt. Nothing and no one is inferior in her sight; She quickly sees through cultural differences, and any claims of superiority and teaches a radical acceptance based on a universal oneness- our common, yet imperfect humanness that needs to be bathed in forgiving and in aspiring light. In that light, she reflects the soul’s need for healing, and the urges towards redemption and wholeness…

Woman who are in tune with their own rhythmic cycles draw strength and understanding from Hecate’s alignment with Nature, and with the cycles of the Moon, emotion, and self understanding.

Many times, a woman who is psychically close to Hecate becomes a healer of one variety or another- simply because she intuitively understands the dance of shadows- the veils and pathways between life and death, and from their own doubts and despair, brings an empathy and an attunement that can bless others.

This evening, and for the next few nights as the Full Moon of all Hallow’s arrives, go for a walk in a familiar, safe place… Walk leisurely, without a place you must go… when you come to a place that has intersecting paths- sidewalks, grass, sand, curbs, roads etc., pause…

Look up at the Moon, and then down and around… you just might be able to catch a glimpse of her in the moonlight- Allow her to point you in a way that challenges you to grow beyond the old self…

Ask her for guidance, for wisdom, for protection, … for answers to your heart’s deepest questions…














   The Tree of Life


I invite you now to participate in a common Druid meditation that seeks to heighten your awareness of Nature as being within us and among us…

Please sit, lie down or stretch in ways that you are able and comfortable… Become aware, through slow, relaxed breathing that your back and your lungs work together rhythmically to bring air and inspiration into and away from your body…

Now imagine that your spine is the trunk of a strong strait sacred oak… and that your feet have become those roots that sink deeply into the earth herself, providing your whole being with food and water- life giving nourishment…

Like the rich sap that runs up into the most distant leaves, let your breath rise… from down in your toes, then from deep within your diaphragm, filling your belly and your chest… and slowly up your spine and out spreading through your entire being…

And lastly, allow your breath to move up to the crown of your head, and then back down and out through your arms and fingers… just like the long, strong branches of the tree…

As you breathe up and out,  up from the deep and dark parts of the earth, up your legs and into your body then your head, see the energy of life flowing through you, and then down ,back into the ground again…

So is life; circulating, energetic, flowing, and unfolding…May the Goddess that holds all energy and mystery  fill you with wonder, fill you, nurture you, and as needed release all that is not true to you, to the great winds to blow safely away… Blessed Be!

Whither Witchcraft? A presentation on the historical understanding of witchcraft and the modern revival of withcraft in our contemporary society

October 29, 2012 - 12:03 pm 25 Comments

Whither Witchcraft?

A two part sermon presentation on the historical understanding of

witchcraft and a modern revival of witchcraft in contemporary culture

The Kailo Interfaith Community  October 28, 2012


When you first hear the word, “witch,” what comes to mind? Chances are, especially at this time of the year the image you conjure up is of an ugly old hag or an old wizened, wicked crone.

Whether that image has come to you through horror films, MacBeth,  or Hansel and Gretel, it matters little- it is a cruel and ignorant parody of the truth. It represents a psychological projection that is tied to a cultural and religious misogyny that, unfortunately, is still alive in conservative churches today.

If I told you that witchcraft or Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in the Western world today, what would you say?

As this is the season for haunting thoughts and scary notions, let me take a portion of this service to “set the story straight” when it concerns witches and witchcraft. I will briefly try to explain how a genuine religious and spiritual expression became the source of both the tragic and the comic associated with Halloween, and how an almost genocidal persecution of women has been associated with witches as targets of ridicule, scorn and even execution.


Witchcraft, Wicca, or the Craft are all names for an ancient belief system that finds its origins in prehistoric culture. Various scholars indicate that these nature-based religions are the oldest type of religious understanding known to humanity.


In that regard, it predates Egypt and India, and its ancient and intuitive teachings can be seen as accompanying the first wondering of humankind. It is widely believed and well documented that some form of witchcraft can be found in every rural, ancient, or pre-patriarchal culture. The common beliefs held universally are attention to the cycles and seasons of the year, paying careful attention to regional plant life for their medicinal and magical properties, and looking to the animals as shamans- as our symbolic guides for wisdom.

Through various icons and idols, early civilizations fashioned an effective and imaginative polytheism that is still found among the Balinese, rural Hindu and Chinese lifestyles. While every European society, from Russia to Italy, from Sweden to Portugal has had within it, witches or nature worshippers, because our American society is so predominantly Anglo-Saxon, we commonly known more about the Celts and the Druids of the British Isles than any other branch of witchcraft and pagan teachings.

Additionally, since Wiccan practices and over all outlook on life is the similar to Native American and Native Taoist and Australian Aboriginal religions, we could say, that what most of us would define as witchcraft can best be summarized as Native European Spirituality.

The polytheism of witchcraft symbolically centers itself in the foundational belief that the Divine is not above or beyond them, but that Divine energy or presence was best understood as imminence; that the divine was not transcendent and aloof.

In that way, the God/Goddess is not removed from the natural world that so directly shapes our lives. This power resided in nature, and was to be understood as flowing through life and all around through the seasons


1of the year and resides in the mysteries of the human body and psyche. This was a profoundly intuitive belief system and as a result, witchcraft became a valuable storehouse of nature lore, rituals, herbal medicines, and has its own form of depth psychology replete with its archetypes and Mythic images that spanned the spectrum of nature and human concern.

Witchcraft, paganism, feminist thealogy and nature worship have similar histories. Clearly, some of their teachings overlap and have similarly suffered at the hands of patriarchal attitudes and prevailing church beliefs. By looking at a few key definitions, we can begin to see the sorry story of how such prejudice and banality were developed in our Western religions and society, and how those notions can be eliminated or at least clarified.

The word, witch, was not coined until much later in history. The first title used to describe this approach to religion and beliefs was pagan. Today, the word, pagan, is used to define anyone who is not orthodox, mainline Christian. It can refer to someone who seriously reveres nature without adhering to strict Western theological concepts of God as being “out there” or above and removed from us. That definition, by the way, easily includes most of us!

Originally, the word, pagan, or in Latin, paganus, meant a “country dweller” someone who lived away from the city, who lived in close contact with the rhythms and routines of nature and along mountain ridges, wooded forests and along seacoast marshes… OOPS! Simply put, a pagan was someone who drew meaning from a life that was intimately intertwined with their environment and with all of its natural cycles.


In that way, they were the opposites of a metropolitan or a citizen who defined their world by being involved with society, politics, or commerce.

As for the origins of the word, witch, scholars suggest two possible meanings. The first possible meaning comes from the word, WIC, which means to shape or bend. The reference here would be to anyone who has the power to shape their own consciousness, or to bend their thoughts and feelings to produce new outcomes.

The second definition of the word, WIC, refers to the blending of wisdom, playfulness, humor, and wit. Anyone who spends time among today’s witches might favor that last definition!

Once the traditional, hierarchical, and male dominated church came to power, the references in Scripture, tradition, and culture to witches and pagans began to take on only a pejorative and derisive meaning. It became defined as someone who was a heathen, and later from Judaism into Christianity, anyone who is non-Christian. In orthodox Islam, we have a similar treatment using the word, infidel. These pagan believers were arrogantly and unmercifully considered to be lower and less than the cultural citizens or the pious, church going believers. Consequently, they were also considered “cheap labor, brutish, beneath ordinary mentality or morality, a convenient source for slavery, ripe for exploitation.

Of course, that means we can add pagans and witches to the anawim– to all those who were socially disenfranchised and who shared a portion of the common horror of the Native Americans, Blacks, Asians, homosexuals, Jews, and any nonwhite and poor women.


Witches were women who believed in natural forms of medicine, healing, were an especially vulnerable target. They became hated by the established medical and religious institutions because they were spiritual healers, midwives, and herbal doctors.

Even though these women were able to help people effectively, in ways that the established church and traditional medical practices could not grasp or control, they became targets of jealousy and suspicion. When some of these helpers and healers gained acclaim, respect, and might have been given some pieces of land for their talents, then the great witch hunt could begin, and it was somehow justified as a way to reassert the patriarchal Church’s control in a truly diabolical way.

What do I mean when I say diabolical? In the Middle Ages, there was a text circulated among the clergy that was designed to expose and punish witches. This text for persecution was called the Malus Maleficarum and its pages contained elaborate and specific ways you could use to find out is a person was of the devil or if they were a true believer.

As a result of this text, thousands maybe millions of women, labeled as witches, sometimes their entire families and villages, were tortured or destroyed.

One glaring statement from the teachings of this book state that 80% of all women inherit original evil tendencies and that the original sin that becomes witchcraft starts in a woman’s lust and her carnal appetites. In order for these women to be saved from themselves, these often wise and beneficial women would have to have their souls bleached, or their will and their bodies broken!


Because no “great man” was associated with the creation based religions like witchcraft, it was unacceptable. Because witches audaciously believed that God could be directly experienced, and that her Spirit is ever active in benevolent Nature, they were brutally treated and superstitiously feared- even to the point of hysteria- which by the way, was a particular disease that could only affect people who had wombs!

(My experiences in Salem/Beverly MA)

(My experiences in State College, PA)

(My experiences in Charleston, SC)

Songs, chants, spiral dances… Meditation on Hecate and a body prayer called the Tree of Life…


Our world today is far from being free. The ferment and divisiveness concerning alternative ways and expressions of thought, worship and understanding God and our world are still being met with prejudice, fueled by bigotry and ignorance. We are forcibly reminded that more open minded, open hearted approaches to life, faith, and religion are practiced only by a scattered minority and so it is still an elusive cultural dream. We are still appalled that in today’s world witch hunts based on religious intolerance are still being held. This is one of the many imperative reasons to establish alternative approaches. It is the necessary task of our compassionate awareness to create inclusive spiritual communities that resist these narrow insistent voices and actions; communities that will provide open and welcoming space for all responsible expressions of divinity and wisdom teachings that would be otherwise threatened.

Additionally, the word most often associated with witchcraft, magic, also needs our attention. If we can rule out sleight of hand and stage illusions, we can recognize three distinct definitions of the word, magic,

and they run the full range from the delightful, to the dastardly, from the divine to the despicable.

Magic is:

1) The rites and rituals associated with intuitive learning and with enhancing our empathetic attunement with nature, our response to natural wisdom, nonmedical healing, and our alignment with the governing laws of the Cosmos.




) Practices that teach you how to alter your awareness or your consciousness, thereby training yourself to increase your awareness and understanding of the energies of life and how best to open your heart and mind… Such as meditation, visualization, etc.


) Sorcery or practicing ways to manipulate, design, or otherwise control the thoughts and feelings of others for self-serving ends. Any form of spiritual materialism that uses spiritual methods for selfish needs or to strengthen egotistical ends.


Since I have had direct experience with many kinds of occult groups, and with many varieties of spiritual and metaphysical practices, I can confidently state that among the witches, members of Wicca, and the Craft that I have met, 90% accept only the first or benevolent definition, and many accept the neutral second one. However, they abhor and utterly reject the third or pernicious approach that usually involves a person in some form of bastardized Christian rituals that are used to arouse fear and that are aimed at gaining mental control and emotional power over others.


Next, I would like to introduce the meaning and the inspiration that can be found from affirming the female image for divinity. As many of you know, I have spent considerable time extracting those teachings from early Christianity, and it is remarkable how well they support and uphold much of what is being taught in Wiccan circles today. Wisdom, you see, is timeless. I believe and have come to know that She is embodied throughout the ages, as Holy Spirit, and that She is calling to us still.


The idea of a Goddess or a cosmic Mother in the religious traditions of the West is still troublesome for some of us. Part of the reason for this difficulty is the exclusively male images, and the language choices that we have inherited and that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic Scriptures maintain.

This is operationally true even though modern scholarship finds much more room for gender inclusion in interpretation. Another reason for the awkwardness many Westerners feel with the Goddess image is our own lack of comfort with intimacy and with the ultimacy that the feminine holds within itself- especially concerning our issues with our own bodies and our relationship with the great goddess- Gaia, the Earth.

In the kind of symbolic polytheism known to witches, it would be wrong to state that the Goddess rules the world. Instead, we can affirm that She IS the world! She can be known by each and every person in a radically equal relationship and each person finds her through their own inner work, the recognition of their inner and most sacred truths.

In the West, sacred sexuality remains troublesome and problematic, but in the Craft, sexuality is not our source of conflict, but acts and lives within us as our positive polarity with Spirit, and provides a way that leads us toward finding our cooperative wholeness. In that way, the Goddess religions such as witchcraft teach that the depths and riches of life are found by how well we link or connect ourselves to all others, to our relationships, our communities, and to our world.

Now let me share a reading from Starhawk that explains the Goddess even further as to expand our appreciation and awareness:

“The Goddess can be seen as the symbol, the normative image of immanence. She represents the divine embodied in nature, in human


beings, in the flesh. The Goddess is not one image, but many… She includes the male in her aspects. For he becomes the child and the consort, the stag and the bull, the grain and the reaper, part of the light and the dark.

Yet, the femaleness of the Goddess is primary, not to denigrate the male, but because the female represents the bringing of life to the world [and the valuing of the Creation] The Goddess, the Mother, as the symbol of that value teaches us that the world [in all its complexity and majesty] has true value, it is our heart and soul. …

For women, the symbol of the Goddess is profoundly liberating, and restores a sense of authority and empowerment to the female, to her body, and to all life processes: birth, growth, lovemaking, aging and death. …

The Goddess of nature is also the Muse, for she is the inspiration behind much of culture, the arts, literature, music, and wisdom.

The female image of divinity does not, however, provide a convenient justification for the oppression of men. For it is the female that gives birth to the male, and includes the male in ways that a male divinity cannot. … The Goddess gives birth to a pantheon that is inclusive, not exclusive. She is not an insecure or jealous deity. ….”

Starhawk goes on to attest to the importance of social action and prophetic witness as a part of the craft and as a crucial consideration among eco-feminists and Wiccans. She states:

“Immanent power, power from within, is the source of the power that is among us. We can choose to cooperate or choose to withdraw our cooperation with any system, [culture or world view.]


And it is our choices and our decisions that must recognize the inner connectedness of individuals in a community [or a council of all beings] and that every person has an inherent value.

We are of the world, and we are of each other. The power among us and within us is great. Though we be hurt, we can heal… Within and among us is the power of renewal. And there is still time, time to choose that power, and to share it among us.”       Dreaming The Dark


I prize the memory of doing a spiral dance with Margo Adler and Starhawk and approximately 300 U-Us at the GA in New Haven in 1990… Joan Borysenko was my partner and we danced into the wee hours of the night … I could feel the sense of immanence and connection with the natural forces as we danced around the Moon and through the arms and across the faces of one another. The energy that can flow from eye to eye, hand to hand, heart to heart is truly remarkable!

Lastly, I admire witches I have known for they have always conveyed a sincerity a caring and an altruism that is noble. There is nothing of the “gypsy” fortuneteller preying on the gullible, or the slick charlatan who is offering expensive classes among them. Most feel that to take advantage of one’s spirituality for material gain goes directly against the intent of their teachings or the lifestyle and values they are seeking to promote.


Then who are the witches? They are, in large part, women dedicated to reclaiming a positive sexual and spiritual identity, people who are committed to ecological awareness and environmental protection, to community outreach and service, and to alternative forms of healing and wholeness that are beyond the usual methods. In short, witches and Wiccans seek to honor the earth, honor themselves, and offer respect and caring for anyone who enters their lives, or who choose to join their circle.


They deserve our support. Amen, Blessed Be!


Excerpt from The Physics of Angels by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake

October 5, 2012 - 11:41 am 6 Comments

The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science and Spirit Meet

An excerpt from Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake’s latest book.

It may seem unlikely that a scientist and a theologian would discuss angels in the twenty-first century. Both disciplines at the end of the modern era appear equally embarrassed by this subject. For theologians it became an embarrassment for three hundred years even to mention angels. During the Newtonian-Cartesian industrial age, angels were banished, trivialized. The Baroque churches built in the seventeenth century, the same century that science and religion split, depicted angels as chubby, cute, little babies that you want to pinch. Basically, religion took the soul, which became more and more introverted and puny, and scientists took the universe.

Through the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, the universe was mechanized, and at the same time the heavens were secularized. They were made up of ordinary matter gliding around in perfect accordance with Newtonian laws. There was no room in them for angelic intentions. Angels had no place in a mechanistic world, except perhaps as psychological phenomena, existing only within our imaginations.

But this mechanistic worldview is now being superseded by science itself. And although the scientific and theological establishments have ignored angels, recent surveys have shown that many people still believe in them. In the United States, for example, over two-thirds believe in their existence, and one-third state that they have personally felt an angelic presence in their lives

We are entering a new phase of both science and theology, where the subject of angels becomes surprisingly relevant again. Both the new cosmology and the old angelology raise significant questions about the existence and role of consciousness at levels beyond the human. When the two of us held our first discussions on this subject, we were fascinated by the parallels between Thomas Aquinas speaking of angels in the Middle Ages and Albert Einstein speaking of photons in the last century.

The grassroots revival of interest in angels is timely. Much of the present interest centers on experiences of help and assistance at times of need. It is intensely personal in nature, and individualistic in spirit.

The traditional Western understanding of angels is much deeper and richer than the more individualistic modern angel literature would suggest, and far more concerned with community and our common development and our relationships with one another, God, and the universe. These values fit with a more holistic or organic understanding of nature and of society.

Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge common experiences that emerge in all world cultures and religions when we are living in an ever-shrinking global village. All cultures, including our own, acknowledge the existence of spirits at levels beyond the human. We call them angels, but they go under different names in other traditions (Native Americans call them “spirits”). Angels constitute one of the most fundamental themes in human spiritual and religious experience. It is difficult to imagine deep ecumenism or interfaith advancing among the world’s cultures and religions without acknowledging angels in our midst and angels in our own traditions.

Experiences that we human beings face together, including the ecological crisis, require all the wisdom we can muster. Angels may be able to assist us in this work and may well prove to be indispensable allies, truly guardian angels, instructing us in safeguarding our inheritance of a once healthy but today endangered planet.

For all these reasons it is important to return to our own spiritual tradition to examine what it tells us about angels, and to connect that wisdom to today’s evolutionary cosmology. This is necessary in order to set the stage for deeper explorations in the future—a future we believe will be characterized by a more eager effort to examine consciousness on this planet and beyond.

To assist us in this task of exploring our own spiritual tradition, we have chosen to concentrate on three giants of the Western tradition whose treatment of angels is particularly broad, deep, and influential. They are Dionysius the Areopagite, a Syrian monk whose classic work The Celestial Hierarchies was written in the sixth century; Hildegard of Bingen, a German abbess of the twelfth century; and St. Thomas Aquinas, a philosopher-theologian of the thirteenth century.

Dionysius the Areopagite made an amazing synthesis of the currents of the Neoplatonic philosophies of the Middle East in the light of his own Christian theology and experience. Hildegard of Bingen, though she called on the tradition of angelology handed down through the monastic tradition of the Western church, nevertheless worked especially out

– See more at:


of her visionary experiences with the angelic realms. Thomas Aquinas created a synthesis of the study of angels, including the views of the Muslim philosopher Averroes, the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite, the science and philosophy of Aristotle, and the biblical tradition. He also raised profound, speculative questions that are provocative even today, and are especially interesting in light of the cosmology now emerging from today’s science. It is likely that these three thinkers devoted more of their intellectual labor to angelology than any other three major thinkers of the West.

What is an angel? And what do they do?

First, angels are powerful. When an angel appears in the Scriptures, the first words are, “Don’t be afraid.” Angels are awesome. The poet Rilke says that every angel is terrifying.

Angels are essentially understanding beings. They think deeply. They are experts at intuition, and can assist our intuition. Angels are also special friends to the prophets, and we need prophets today in every profession, in every role of citizenship, in every generation.

In addition, angels have very strong wills and have serious cosmic duties to perform, relating to the wisdom and the knowledge that they carry. One of these tasks is to praise.

Both Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Aquinas teach that the devil does not praise, and that’s what makes the devil different from the angels—a refusal to praise. How much of our culture in the last few centuries has indeed been a refusal to praise?

The angels are agents and co-workers with us human beings. Sometimes they guard and defend us; sometimes they inspire us and announce big news to us—they get us to move. Sometimes they heal us, and sometimes they usher us into different realms, from which we are to take back mysteries to this particular realm. Aquinas says, “We do the works that are of God, along with the holy angels.”

Angels make human beings happy. It is very rare to meet someone who has met an angel who doesn’t wear a smile on his or her face. They call us to be greater beings ourselves.

In the Middle Ages, as in all previous ages, it was generally believed that the heavens were alive, the whole cosmos was alive. The heavens were populated with innumerable conscious beings associated with the stars, the planets, and maybe the spaces in between. When people thought of God in heaven, they were not thinking in terms of some vague metaphor or some psychological state, they were thinking of the sky.

“Our Father, who art in heaven.” Nowadays, many Christians assume that this is a merely metaphorical statement, nothing to do with the actual sky. But this isn’t how people used to think. They thought that the heavens were full of spirits and of God. And indeed if you think of God as omnipresent, everywhere, divinity must be present throughout the whole universe, of which the earth is but an infinitesimal part.

In the first century, when the Christian scriptures were written, the number-one question going around the Mediterranean basin was: Are the angels our friends or our foes? Everyone believed in angels in Greece and Rome; they were part of the accepted cosmology. But the question was: Can we trust these invisible forces of the universe that are moving planets and the elements? How trustworthy is the universe?

That’s so interesting because in the twentieth century Einstein was once asked, “What’s the most important question you can ask in life?” And his answer was, “Is the universe a friendly place or not?” It’s the same question. I tell my students that every time you see angels mentioned in the Bible you should think Einstein, because you’re dealing with the same issue. It’s the ultimate cosmological issue. Can we trust the cosmos? Is the cosmos benign?

Adapted from Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science and Spirit Meet by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake. Used with permission from Monkfish Book Publishing.


Here is another excerpt from The Physics of Angels:

“RUPERT: Do you think there are practical ways of making friends with the angels? For example, in various Jewish ceremonies there are invocations of the archangels Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel as the guardians of the four directions. And Christians in the Catholic tradition have a particular opportunity to make friends with the angels at Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael and All Angels, on 29 September. Do you think there are things we can do apart from being more open to God, and the spirit of truth and justice, specifically to invoke the angels?

“MATTHEW: Yes, there are rituals and invocations that are present already in church traditions, and some that have to be resurrected. And we need new rituals to invoke angels; I think that these will come as we allow our minds to wander more into the living cosmos. Technology could play a great role in helping us envision the angels — for example, the wonderful photographs we now have of stars being born and galaxies spiraling. But I don’t think we should underestimate the path of the struggle for justice and truthfulness. This is about inner work. Certainly truthfulness is. Hildegard is saying that where there is inner work, it does indeed open the communication with angels.

“The same is true in struggling for justice. Remember that angels often visit people in prison. St. Peter was liberated from prison by an angel. Sometimes I think that Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and other great souls that have spent time in prison have found angelic support there.

“So the struggle for justice is not an abstraction. It’s a way of learning and a way of opening the heart. I know one Catholic sister, for example, a very fine and holy woman, who tells me her greatest mystical experience is being taken away in the paddy wagon by police when she protests at military bases and nuclear power plants — that is when she most feels the presence of spirits and the angels.

“So the struggle for justice is a path that opens our hearts up and allows angels to rush in. The struggle, certainly around ecological issues, is going to get more intense in our lifetime, and we need to see these struggles as rituals. And angels come to healthy and authentic rituals.

“RUPERT: That’s an exciting prospect, the struggle for justice and the struggle for a new relationship with the environment taking place in alliance with the angels and with their help. It gives it a bigger dimension. It is an empowering thought, because otherwise it’s just a handful of people fighting against huge vested interests and economic and political powers. We need all the help we can get.

“MATTHEW: And surely then guardian angels of children must be awfully interested in the ecological crisis. The children’s future depends on a healthy planet.”

Are Angels Real? A discovery and an outline for understanding

October 1, 2012 - 4:02 pm 14 Comments

Are Angels Real?

An Exploration and a Discovery!

Kailo Interfaith Community

September 30, 2012

The Rev. Fr. Peter E. Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

Some years ago, on a Christmas Eve, I delivered a homily on angels that I did not quite believe… On, it was a fine piece of religious journalism, well crafted but devoid of anything but an intellectual understanding. This disconnect between the mind and the heart has always challenged me, and has repeatedly led me deeply into other meanings and possibilities for  ministry and for affirming and understanding the spiritual dimensions of life.

You see, one of my parishioners at the time, ironically, a man named Michael, said that he did not agree with me when I had said that angels are flashes of perception or impulses towards creativity. So I listened, and it began a reinvestigation that prodded me towards a wider and deeper awareness of the inner or spiritual world that is hidden from the obvious; disguised among the ordinary; and that has within it a stream of consciousness and awareness one can only describe as the holy or the sacred that flows through our world, and can become active within us.

Another irony… With this man’s question, it started me on a five year journey into the world of the angelic so that know I can confidently and knowingly say that angels are real!

Some background on the subject, and I promise not to be obtusely theological if I can help it- for example, I will not get into describing the heavenly hierarchy of angelic beings as laid out in the Early Church by the philosopher Pseudo-Dionysis… Well, maybe some day I will do that for you…

Similarly, if there was enough interest in learning how to embody the angles or practice angelic approaches to healing, those topics are also possible.


All the great and timeless religions contain references to angels: They each refer to them as beings who can influence our hearts and minds through a change of perception, and some refer to angels as possessing the presence and the power to shift or change lives on a larger, more complete scale.

Angels are an experiential part of the super conscious Mystery, part of the Mythology of God’s universe that is far more complex and far more grand in its scale and scope that most of us can realize! Angels can best be understood as the quanta of energy that constantly flows through the universe and that symbolically is understood as a source of energy that can beneficially influence the natural world as well as the lives of individuals.

Some approaches to the whole study and spiritual dimension called angels will confidently postulate that angels have within their possibilities and potentials, to declare that there is nothing that exists that does not have an angelic signature or influence that can be associated with it.

From that viewpoint, we have the mystical teaching that says that every person, every city, every country, every national group can have a guiding angelic being or for that matter, a demonic influence associated with it. While this idea might sound preposterous to some of you, or at least unlikely, the deeper I go into metaphysical teachings, the broader and wider my understanding reaches.

Let me remind you that many famous and highly intelligent people have professed a belief in angels: From Lincoln to Longfellow; And as far as challenging the so called absurdity of this idea, the world renown scientist and astrophysicist Robert Jastrow believes that the Biblical event of Ezekiel’s fiery wheels could refer to extraterrestrial visits! So my claims are pale!

First let’s begin with some definitions:

Angels are universally known as messengers of God, the divine or what is considered to be sacred or holy. These messages can include flashes of insights, spurts of creativity, and various intuitions that can come to us-


Whether it is through meditation, deep relaxation, times of ecstasy, or even during during stressful episodes in our lives. These angelic visitations do not often appear consciously or in any knowing way during ordinary states of waking and working consciousness.

According to classical religious thought, the office of an angel is the task or role that express the spirit of guidance or is a functional expression of wisdom and compassion. It is taught that each of the angels has, as their distinct charge or a certain kind of task. Accordingly, each angel has its own power, ability or responsibility. (St. Augustine)

Symbolically, the clues to these tasks and powers can be found in looking at their halos, their clothes, the objects they are carrying, and their weapons, usually a kind of sword… If you prefer a more psychological description, angels are archetypal energies, myths of the collective unconscious, and act as metaphors for how God’s presence and influence can be experienced or understood within our psyches and within our societies. Simply put, angels are divine translations of the gracious and the holy; they are sources of healing energy for people, places, and planets.

Without getting too deeply into ancient theology and its metaphysical speculations ( but I do confess that I find a lot that stuff quite fascinating!)

Angles are present in every holy religious tradition- in different images, grab, style, or depiction to be sure, but they are present as messengers and teachers. In our Western Scriptures, we see the prominent role of angels in the genesis story, in Jesus’ birth narrative, in the books of the Apocrypha such as Tobit, and finally having a leading role in the visionary book of Revelations. Angels reserved an ongoing importance throughout the creation of the Christian story from the early Church through the Middle Ages. Not until the Age of Enlightenment and the advent of empirical, matter based, left brain science did we begin to discard them or at least dethrone them.

I would say that we reduced them to sentiment and fantasy…


After all, from a strictly scientific world view anything that cannot be logical or scientifically measured could not be taken seriously. ( Can you name some things we cannot see, that we take seriously today?)

With the advent of cosmology and new physics, as the seemingly disparate worlds of astronomy and theology begin to merge, with the theories on the origins of life and the universe sounding a lot like mysticism, energies that were hidden from ordinary sight or removed from ordinary awareness and gaining credence- developing a following again!

Needless to say, any reductionist approach to life, religion, society and self will have difficulty with any labeled spiritual, and so could have some disdain for the concept of angels, too. Protestants, as a whole, have discounted the importance of angels… They have made their churches into an almost exclusively Jesus centered religion, not regarding or acknowledging that the world view in which the Bible was written was a deeply mystical and metaphorical one.

Today, in our overtly secular and commercial world, even the Christmas story suffers when angels are relegated to greeting cards and on St. Valentines, the only angels you see are asexual cherubs- both holidays dripping with insipid caricatures of who and what angels truly are…

As you already know, whenever there is a difficult subject for a person or a society to accept, work through or understand, then one of the best ways to quickly rid yourself of its possible importance is to make it into a hollow sentimental contrivance, an intellectual joke.

My best definitions of the reality and the function of angels goes like this: Angels are celestial beings of light, and Rupert Sheldrake and Matthew Fox calls angels, those quanta of energy

That reveal to us the intention of God.

Their influence on us and among us becomes increasingly available when we intentionally practice opening up our awareness and clearing out our obstacles to “entertain angels” or welcomes those insights, wonders, and inspirations. First, it takes a willingness to reduce our egos, so we make room from the angelic energies to be present to us, or to welcome their presence or messages for us.

Angels come to us in many ways- sometimes subtle and gentle, other times more directly and even forcefully as if to teach a dramatic lesson.

As an agent of the Holy Spirit, angels provide us with their wisdom and can open our hearts to this previously unknown source of joy, comfort, and hope through our prayers, our meditations, our spiritual disciplines and intense practices or spiritual studies. They can also visit us unawares or present themselves during critical or unexpected times- when experiences or events in our lives seem to have no “rhyme or reason” and the importance of what they say or teach doesn’t easily occur or make sense to us.

When I look back on all the experiences I have had or that I have read about concerning angelic visits, angels bring forth intuitive wisdom, they incite moral reform, they encourage forgiveness, and foster the development of virtues, strengths, faith, and humility.

Sometimes, as I have been told by people who have come to see me about things that are spiritual and sometimes religious, that angels appeared to them as a thought, feeling or energy that rescued them! They do not know why they were saved or spared, but they were! The results of those experiences have been incredible and dramatic such as the ability to overcome an addiction or the find release from any imprisoning idea, illness, belief, or relationship. Similar to the symbolic episode in the Epistles, where Timothy and Paul were put into jail, with no seeming way out, an angel came and broke down the walls, bent the bars, and set them free! Some authors include feelings of being protected or guided to do or say something that

would ordinarily be unusual, even astonishing! Angels are said to be present whenever we feel safe, secure, protected; whenever we are grateful to be alive, whenever we feel grateful to be loved. Angels are those inner experiences or realities that give proof and credence to God’ s inexhaustible care for us. We are never outside of God’s love and compassion- we are never beyond the reach of the angels…