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…