By Maria Parisen
Originally printed in the March - April 2005 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Parisen, Maria. "Angels, Mortals, and the Language of Love." Quest 93.2 (MARCH - APRIL 2005):61-63, 69
The idea of a world filled with angel presences is, for many of us, a beautiful thought. Simply imagining angels brings happiness. One reason such images are joyous is that angels are present, even in our imaginings, to uplift and heal. As archetypal figures rich in soul meaning, and again as sentient beings who range the fullness of inner space, angels are a fact in Nature and a continuous, powerful influence in human life.
We sense this influence. In 1997 the television show Touched by an Angel was the most popular program on CBS after the acclaimed news hour 60 Minutes. Each week an average of 20 million Americans watched "angels" helping people through difficult times. The interest in such phenomena as channeling, mediumship, shamanic visioning, and astral travel—in which claims abound for angel contacts—remains high. Monthly journals feature angel-human contacts in everyday life. This is more than entertainment. At best, we"re more open now to the messages angels bring, to glimpses of a more wholesome power and purpose.
The popular view of angels is that they are wise, loving messengers of God. Angels know how to avoid trouble; they make the best of difficult situations, using heavenly powers. The prevailing notions blend religious and cultural beliefs, media images, hopeful fantasy, and direct experience. A universal idea from ancient times is that angels are simply part of our wider family, the community of that divine Spirit to which we all belong. Some companions are visible, others unseen but always near.
Angels are often pictured as bringing the Word of God to humans, as harbingers of divine intent. They bridge the realms of heaven and earth, praising God and turning human hearts toward spiritual realities. Angel encounters, whether inspiring or terrifying, are always memorable, because they invite each of us to embrace a wider being, an immortal life, while yet on earth.
A Sanskrit word similar to angel in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions is deva, "shining one," used loosely for a wide range of such beings. Another related term is Dhyan Chohan, "Lord of Meditation" or "Lord of Light." The hierarchies of Dhyan Chohans are said to be beyond humanity in evolution, charged with the growth and development of all nature"s kingdoms, including humanity. H. P. Blavatsky gives this perspective:
The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by an almost endless series of hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform, and who—whether we give them one name or another, whether we call them Dhyan Chohans or Angels—are "Messengers" in the sense only that they are agents of karmic and cosmic law. (SD I: 274)
Theosophy affirms that the universe is alive throughout in a unity of being and becoming. All beings, from the smallest to the greatest, are One in essence. Unity is a fact in heaven and on earth. Yet individuality and diversity prevail equally for galaxies, solar systems, planets, and celestial hierarchies as well as for embodied creatures.
Hierarchy and Wholeness
Both unity and individuality are found in hierarchy, from star to atom, from seraphim to nature spirit. Nested levels of consciousness and function are nature"s way. Each human consciousness enfolds many younger beings in the physical body alone; billions of individual cells cohere in hierarchies of tissues and organ systems. Human families enfold their constituent lives and are in turn part of a national and planetary whole. Hierarchy is resonance, subtle communication, mutual adaptation, and growth—each organism re-creating itself in relation with all others.
Our earth, solar system, and far distant galaxies are all linked in bonds of sympathy and helpfulness. All are expressions of God"s holy purpose and plan. And in a wonderful mystery, all are not simply containers for diverse beings but are the very life of visible and invisible intelligences. Instinctive, semiconscious, and fully enlightened beings commingle, learn, and grow together. Beneath the apparent solidity of things, within the beauty and complexity of forms, one discovers life—one may correctly say angel consciousness—everywhere.
Madame Blavatsky notes that just as every external human action is preceded by internal thought, emotion, and will, "the universe is worked and guided from within outwards." (SD I: 274) And she explains:
In Esoteric Philosophy, every physical particle corresponds to and depends on its higher noumenon—the Being to whose essence it belongs; and above as below, the Spiritual evolves from the Divine, the psycho-mental from the Spiritual . . . the whole animate and (seemingly) inanimate Nature evolving on parallel lines, and drawing its attributes from above as well as from below. (SD I: 218)
The physicality so vivid and central to human life is only one dimension among many "fields" that we may call home. The planetary realms of thought, feeling, and intuitive and archetypal forces underlie physical form as a radiant soul life. These largely invisible planes of inner space are the various intelligences focused there. Various beings make our planetary realms of soul and Spirit their home. They center themselves in states of consciousness, or dimensions, where they can grow in wisdom, love, and spiritual power. As we gradually awaken to the fullness of being human, we not only discover angel companions but enter into the deva Spirit of humanity itself.
The Guardian Spirit
The mortal nature is nearest to diversity, where forms and differences are most compelling. But those centered in physicality, whose soul life is confined in five senses, personal desire, and linear thinking, are scarcely alive. Angels hold little meaning for such mortals, as the human-angel bond requires spiritual perception. Such perception is not merely clairvoyance but insight, which comes with full participation in the life within and around us, guided by love.
Enfolding the human body and soul is an immortal Spirit, a deva Self. This immortal individual, whose being spans worlds, inspires its mortal child to reach out for others, to give without fear, to inquire into life"s deeper meanings. Madame Blavatsky notes that an even wider presence guides the human Monad or innermost Self throughout its journey. The Self is receptive or feminine in relation to its Lord or Father, with whom it will eventually reunite in homecoming.
The star under which a human entity is born, says the Occult teaching, will remain forever its star, throughout the whole cycle of its incarnations in one manvantara. But this is not his astrological star. The latter is concerned and connected with the personality, the former with the INDIVIDUALITY. The Angel of the Star, or the Dhyani-Buddha will be either the guiding or simply the presiding "Angel," so to say, in every new rebirth of the monad, which is part of his own essence, though his vehicle, man, may remain forever ignorant of this fact. The adepts have each their Dhyani-Buddha, their elder twin-Soul and they know it, calling it "Father-Soul" and "Father Fire." It is only at the last and supreme initiation, however, that they learn it when placed face to face with the bright "Image." (De Zirkoff, 72-3)
Throughout its vast cosmos, the divine Source remains undivided, simply one. Thus, separation anywhere, anytime, is impossible and an illusion. Beings who feel and act from a sense of separateness, who struggle against the greater belonging, suffer greatly and cause suffering. The immortal Self that guides enlightened beings of all worlds acts through participation, in joyous communion with the whole of creation. Its radiant love wills the greatest good for each and all.
The highest planetary spirits are a hierarchy of compassion who guard and guide all life within their various spheres. Compassion is an empathic power, an intuitive participation in the suffering of another. A desire to alleviate suffering and illumine its causes motivates these beings. Composed of the divinities, buddhas, bodhisattvas, avatars, and saviors, human adepts, and noble others moved by selfless love, the hierarchy of compassion is symbolized as a guardian wall. An efflux of divine radiance, flowing from the spiritual heights to its outermost limits, strengthens, protects, and guides humanity as it can.
Two elements of deva life are worth noting briefly, as they influence all our relations. First is that these intelligences have no sense of a separate, personal self. Their individuality derives from the hierarchy to which they belong. They serve their hierarchy, carrying out its planetary purpose, from a primary feeling of unity. Thus, we work with devas most effectively when guided by selfless, unconditional love. Moreover, true angel contacts never inflate the human ego.
Second, the highest among these unified spirits have moved through the human kingdom. Mortality is a state of equilibrium in which the realms of heaven and earth are linked through Manas, the unitive mind. Manas is vital to the whole process of creation. It transforms archetypal forces into spirit-filled thought forms that manifest in diverse ways. Enlightened beings are agents of transformation, but when working in invisible spheres they need human helpers. Our most trustworthy bridge to deva consciousness is Manas, the mind set free by love.
The World Mother
The theosophist Geoffrey Hodson, a skilled clairvoyant, did a study of mothers during their months of pregnancy. He perceived angels helping the child"s development in the womb. They assisted mainly with two processes: constructing the physical, etheric, emotional, and mental bodies of the child and also inducting the reincarnating Ego into them. Hodson observed further that these angels were agents of a "great Intelligence which presides over and directs all maternal processes throughout Nature," and he noted, "The teachings of occult philosophy relate this Being to the Feminine or Mother Aspect of the Deity, of which She is a manifestation and representative" (Hodson 242).
Hodson was familiar with the World Mother as divine feminine, represented in such figures as Quan Yin, Isis, Sophia, and the Virgin Mary, said to be Queen of Angels. She also symbolizes the World Soul, embodying the collective thought of the highest planetary spirits. Such thought carries wisdom, compassion, and creative power—all forces directed by and through the divine Mother. Her guidance is not external to creation but flows from mystic union within.
Among the many orders of Christian angels, the archangel Gabriel is linked with the processes of birth and death, especially for mortals with a high calling. In the familiar telling, Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary to announce, that she will give birth to the Savior. In images of this sacred moment, when Mary and Gabriel meet, the surroundings tell a wider story. A vase of white roses signifies Mary"s purity, while red roses suggest self-sacrifice and the sorrow to come. Gabriel carries a scepter or staff, emblem of planetary authority. He is shown as a winged being, thus at home in the heavens but able to travel between worlds. In some images, Gabriel and Mary are the same height, denoting similar spiritual stature. All these details are meant for meditative inquiry.
Gabriel also brings to Mohammad the words of the Koran. This vision, recounted by the Prophet and enlarged by folklore, is especially vivid and relays something of the preparation needed for a world-changing collaboration. In Islamic images of such encounters, which are rare, the archangel in his cosmic form may tower above Mohammad.
It takes place just after Mohammad has been chosen as prophet. One night three Angels come to him while he sleeps, cut open his breast and tear out his heart. With water from the sacred well they wask the heart and lave away all that they find within him of doubt, idolatry, paganism and error. Then they fill the cavity with a liquid of wisdom poured from a golden vessel, replace the heart and sew up the breast again.On the next night, "I lay asleep in my house. It was a night in which there were thunder and lightning. No living beings could be heard, no bird journeyed. No one was awake, whereas I was not asleep; I dwelt between waking and sleeping." Suddenly Gabriel the Archangel descended in his own form, of such beauty, of such sacred glory, of such majesty, that all my dwelling was illuminated. When he had approached me, he took me in his arms, kissed me between the eyes and said, "O sleeper, how long wilt thou sleep? Arise! Tenderly will I guide thee. Fear not, for I am Gabriel thy brother."" (Wilson 135)
The archangel Michael is often pictured in battle dress, sometimes engaged in battle with hideous winged beasts. His angel legions surround him in a mighty effort to slay the elemental horde. In the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah, Michael occupies a central position on the Tree of Life, where he may represent the spiritual Self, whose wisdom must guide and sustain the seeker in righteous battle.
The personal self has not the capacity for the long, arduous effort to banish the greed, fanaticism, and hatred symbolized by the mutant beasts. Only in alliance with the Holy Guardian, whether in this form or another, can the battle be fought to liberation. Michael symbolizes the warrior within, especially for humanity as a whole. He is concerned not with superficial irritations but with humanity"s deeper sorrows and sufferings.
Madame Blavatsky notes that that the archangels Gabriel and Michael correspond to the Hebrew Elohim and to certain orders of Dhyan Chohans. These Dhyanis are said to watch over and guide humanity"s great evolutionary journey, an awakening of full spiritual consciousness through many successive stages. We are never alone, as individuals or a collective humanity. The hierarchy of compassion is always near, ever vigilant, able to intervene when karmic law permits.
Annie Besant (19-21), no stranger to righteous battle, sounds the call to action:
The intellectual and religious progress of nations is in the hands of the great Beings who are called Rshis, or Masters . . . in whom Divinity is manifest. These are the liberate spirits . . . who bear on Their strong shoulders the heavy burden of evolving humanity. They are the Founders of the many religions . . . who guard and foster the religions, inspire them . . . strive to lift them out of superstition, redeem them from degradation. They stimulate the intellect of humanity, throw into receptive minds the ideas which illuminate . . . open the sense to the beautiful.
Unceasing in vigilance, untiring in patience, illimitable in tenderness, They watch over humanity and tread the path it must follow . . . Long, long might humanity wander, were it not for these Guardians who lead from bondage to peace.
In our ears today the great cry is sounding: "Who will help us?" We are all, my brothers, feeble; poor is our strength and limited our intelligence. But love can make strong the weakness of our power, and love can illuminate the obscurity of our intelligence. The heart that loves, that utterly surrenders itself, that says in answer: "I will help; here am I . . ." —such a heart is never rejected; to such a one rings back the answer: "Come and work with us for humanity; share the toil, and share also the glory of achievement; come with us and let us labour together for the uplifting of mankind."
References:Besant, Annie. "The Guardians of Humanity." Lecture in the Theosophical Hall, Adyar, March 8, 1908. Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1908.Blavatsky, H. P. The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I. Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1977.De Zirkoff, Boris. H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Vol. XIII. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1982.Hodson, Geoffrey. The Kingdom of the Gods. Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1952.Wilson, Peter Lamborn. Angels. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980.
Maria Parisen is the compiler of the anthology Angels and Mortals: Their Co-Creative Power (Theosophical Publishing House 1990). She has led several workshops in the United States on healing, meditation, and the spiritual life.