Is there a Guardian Angel?
A lecture by Manly P. Hall, December 11, 1983
At a very early date it became evident that the human being was in serious difficulty trying to understand where he was, what he was, and why he was. He saw a nature unfolding, and behind that nature as he saw it there must be something else, but he had no way of really discovering what it was. He was bound within the small area of his own life existence and his expectancy in those days was very little. It has been estimated that for the average human being in the early cave periods, life was probably about ten years, maybe a few more. Many did not reach majority at all. It was a strange existence with everything happening and no explanation for what had happened.
Gradually it became obvious that the human being had to have some type of internal existence which would carry with it faith and hope in his material life. Various beliefs arose. Probably some of the earliest were Shamanistic—the belief in spirits, ghosts, and this type of thing. All these believings came not from a carefully studied planned exploration of nature, but from the desperation of an individual or group of individuals struggling desperately for hope to escape from loneliness, to no longer be an isolated creature in an unknown world. The human being was very much like a castaway on a desert island. He had no resources available to him except what he could contrive with his own ingenuity.
As time went on there was inevitably a demand for some type of organized faith, faith in realities that were not visible. But how was the primitive man going to analyze invisible realities? How is modern man going to analyze them? Actually, it all seems to have arisen within the person himself. The desperate need results in a kind of solution— a solution sufficient for the moment, but for which it was always hoped would be improved and perfected in the course of time. This temporary solution is still the answer that we have to use, but with all our progress, all our skills, all our intellectualism, the individual is still lonely. He is still comparatively helpless in a world infinitely too great for him. Now he not only has to combat nature or adjust to its circumstances, but he must try to survive the complex situations set up by human nature in this little domain we call the Earth.
The beginnings of faith, hope, and love lie in the desperate need for something superior to self, something stronger than we are, some ever-present help in time of trouble. When trouble was common, help was scarce. The individual went through countless miseries and misfortunes, but there had to be some hope, something to sustain the struggling creature in its long evolutionary path.
Among most ancient peoples, there arose a class of medicine priests, of sacerdotal spiritual leaders. These became the foster parents of humanity. The simple people depended upon these leaders for hope and it became obvious that for some mysterious reason these leaders produced remarkable results. These people, these medicine priests apparently performed miraculous cures. But these different forms of healing had their foundation in the human demand for hope, and the only way he could find hope, apparently, was through a strange contrivance with familiar and hopeless elements.
The American Indian in the Southwest, for instance, was very much concerned with creating charms, various good luck symbols, protective symbols, and yet he had no way of knowing really what would protect him or where he would find anything that was sufficient. His solution was to make a move that has become universal. He said: “Here is this pretty little pebble. Here is another pretty little pebble. These little pebbles and stones and flowers and so forth are pretty, they are nice, but in themselves they cannot do any particular good to us.” He made magic by putting together two objects inanimate of themselves, tying them with sinew, painting something on them, and they suddenly became medicine. Magic was bestowed upon a combination of factors where it was not regarded as existing in separate elements themselves. As a result, it gradually dawned upon the human being that almost any combination of circumstances which he could contrive, if brought together had a new meaning, a meaning that might contribute to his own survival. Even today Caucasians in trouble sneak over the border of some Indian reservation to try to get an Indian medicine man to help them, having more faith in him than they have in their own physicians.
These situations perhaps are well explained in the Bible, where we find a definite statement that faith has helped to make us whole; something to believe in, something that has hope is a source of physical health. It helps us to recover from mental ailments, emotional stress, and physical disease. Faith is a tremendously healing power, the only answer we have to the destructive force of fear. From faith came a great development of beliefs and ideals. These were not always provable or demonstrable, but that was not important. It was not whether or not you could scientifically sustain them; the real answer was that people accepted them, believed in them, deposited in them hope for the future—faith in the power of something to protect.
As time went on, religions and philosophies became more complicated and it was inevitable that efforts should be made to rationalize faith, to bring it under the control of reason. It was apparent that if the mind supported the faith it was stronger. Thus there are all kinds of philosophies, mysticisms, esotericisms, and every type of intellectual interpretations of natural phenomena. We have it today, but today we are in a little difficulty.
Knowing that faith basically is the very cornerstone of survival, we find that many forms of knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge, exist largely to destroy faith. They want to take away from us the belief in those very invisible principles upon which we have learned to depend for peace of soul and peace of mind and peace of heart. In this state of confusion a great many persons have lost their spiritual orientation. They have lost their ability to accept the fact that there is a universal good, a universal reality that life is purposed. Gradually as the sciences limit the perspective and force the individual into a constant acceptance of material things as the only realities, faith dims, hope fades away, and the individual is reduced to a state from which he escaped ages ago by rising above the level of materialistic primitive existence.
In the course of time certain facts of human life became increasingly obvious and these facts of life are perhaps somewhat summarized in our relationship with the mystery of death. It .is a problem that the primitive man never could understand. He tried to dramatize or glorify this mystery; he placed a treasury of arts, beauty, and wealth in the tombs of his kings. He did everything to establish that man after death lived in a beautiful land, but he had no way of proving it, no way of justifying it other than by faith. But this faith was so important, so desperately needed that gradually a new type of interpretation of life was built upon faith, faith justified—not rationalized. It became obvious that there had to be some reason for existence. Materialism destroys that reason; idealism supports that reason.
Omar summarizes it in one of the quatrains when he says: “Strange is it not that of those myriad few before us passed the gates of darkness through, not one returned to tell us of the way but to discover it we must travel too.” This pessimism was something that sickened. Pessimism is always a disease. It never amounts to anything constructive. But pessimism is the inevitable result of a hard, sharp look at circumstances without inner enlightenment to sustain. The problem of building this inner light thing can become very important to all of us.
In the course of time the ancients developed a way of tying divinity closer to humanity. It was rather obvious to most people, even when they were comparatively savage, that no deity could listen to all the prayers of mankind, the two or three billion prayers that go up now every day to some gracious providence for help, for something to build hope upon, for something by which the individual can escape the isolation of his own insufficiency.
Gradually the invisible world was organized—not by proof but by necessity. This organization did, however, result in visualization in dreams that the individual had about the invisible world behind him and beyond him. These sleep patterns resulted in an elaborate symbolism of inner survival, found in practically all the esoteric arts and sciences of antiquity that have descended to us. They consist of symbolisms of hope, symbolisms of survival, and symbolisms of transformation by which the sufferings and ills of society can be transcended.
In this particular phase of the subject there has emerged the concept of God. We have enlarged it in one way and reduced it in another. There are certainly not the thousands of deities that arose in Oriental religions, but we do have a realization that there has to be something between man and God besides space. This space, this interval of quality between our state and the divine state simply cannot be a vacuum; in some mysterious way the Divine operates in the mortal existence. In order to operate, it must have some instruments of operation, and there developed in ancient times a belief in tutelary deities, godlings of various kinds such as deities of agriculture. The Romans had gods that lived under the kitchen floors to take care of foods. The Egyptians had their deities who ploughed the fields of Amentet after death. Everywhere there were godlings and spirits that came to be present.
Folklore is loaded with these concepts. Where do they come from? They were not really simply projects of imagination; but visualizations of hope, of faith, realization of a need, and an inner conviction that there must be somewhere something to meet that need.
The needs of our ancestors were the same as our own. We have made practically no progress in the fulfillment of internal needs. We have tried to limit existence to a single life. We have tried to assume that everything is accidental and that all traits are hereditary. We do not have any solution to the great hunger of the human being for inner strength, for a power to meet the pressures of a world, a world around him constantly betraying the world within him. In this emergency we find, therefore, in every major religion of the world a development of intervening deities, beings of various qualities that existed between the final ultimate reality and the common mortal life of man.
In Christian philosophy and religion these are generally called angels and archangels. They were messengers of the divine, and as messengers they became very important. They brought the legends and mysteries and faiths necessary to the fulfillment of spiritual realities. There also arose the earthly counterpart of these, for as the messengers came from above to bring light to man, so below human beings rose to high degrees of spiritual development and saints and heroes began to intercede for human beings before the throne of Deity. So a network of intercessions was created, a network of hope finally more or less justified by a network of speculations.
Now as time went on these speculations became more and more firmly established in the human mind until in many instances these were no longer speculations; they are now traditional facts that have come to us through the wisdom of our ancestors. These facts may be more factual than we realize because actually our best instrument to discover facts must lie within ourselves. We cannot find this truth out in the desert somewhere unless it stimulates insight. Unless something comes from within our selves, the larger work cannot be perfected.
In some cases we have the rise of various orders of deities such as those we find among the American Indians again. Even now in their religious rites and rituals the kachinas come from the mountains, and the human being wearing a mask and with certain ritualistic accompaniments is considered to be a temporary god. This faith is still held firmly in the American Southwest. It is still held in many parts of the East, even among highly civilized and highly skeptical peoples. The masked cult belief is very strong and probably will be for a long time to come.
When I was up in the northern end of India towards Darjieling a group of Tibetan dancers came down to give a performance for the strange visitors from afar. Among the dancers was a little boy, probably five or six years old. Everybody loved that little boy. He was so charming and had such a quaint way of living and thinking. He wore the cutest clothes imaginable and was like a doll to most of the people from outside India who saw him. When the time for the dance came, the little boy put on a mask with a grimacing face on it, decked himself out with some regalia, and started to join the dancers. In the course of the dance this little fellow danced over toward the tourists. They immediately scattered and hid. Those who knew the little boy were still afraid of him while he was wearing the mask. This is a subconscious situation that apparently we have not been able to cure even now.
The masks appear in Egypt in the temple rituals, in the dramas of Greece, in the dances and mysteries of Tibet, Mongolia, and Butan. They are still used in Japan and China. They were found among the Incas and were part of the regalia of the Aztecs and the peoples of Central America. Masked dancers and costumed dancers are still found in many parts of Europe. The full situation is that with the change of perspective, where something that is not normal or common is introduced, immediately there are strange inner acceptances. Something happens, and the individual is no longer oriented to the materialism which has gradually crept into his nature.
In the course of this same procedure we have had great explorations of the mind in folklore, emblemism, symbolism, alchemy, cabala, and many instances of the individual placing ordinary elements in new combinations, causing them to become revelations of something superior or more significant.
Among the classic Greeks the most outstanding example of something supernormal was the spirit guide of Socrates. Socrates had a spirit that was born with him, according to his own statement, and this spirit was called a daemon. Our word demon comes from it but it is a use that was made after it was assumed that all these pagan deities were devils. The daemon was not an evil spirit but a friend, a guide, and a counselor; wherever Socrates was in danger or difficulty, his spirit came to him. The daemon or guardian appeared and he writes about it, discusses it, giving examples of its presence. When, however, the time came for Socrates to die, when it was ordered that he take the hemlock and die of poisoning, he says that his spirit left him, weeping. The spirit was no longer with him.
Iamblicus in his studies of the mysteries of the Egyptians and Chaldeans describes in detail these familiar spirits and gradually we find more and more discussion of them. Paracelsus von Hohenheim and many of the mystics of the Middle ages recognized them. It was also recognized by the early church that there was a ministering presence that sort of protected, helped, and guided, and became an invisible parent to a visible orphan—not necessarily because he had lost his family, but because he was an orphan as far as his inner life was concerned. He was as a child left without parents, alone in the world and needing mothering. He needed someone to lean on, something to strengthen and protect him in his efforts to live a good life. From this came the concept of the guardian angel.
The guardian angel, according to the stories about it that have come down to us, came into birth with the individual, and remained with him throughout life. At death the angel appeared to testify before the throne of Deity of the virtues of the individual it had protected through the years.
This concept was never officially part of the Catholic or early Christian Church, but it was said to be of the mind of the church that it was accepted. A feast day was set aside for it, and as early as the fourth or fifth century it was discussed by the early church theologians. The direct source of these concepts may have been the various nymphs and spirits of the Greeks, or the various guardians, spirits, and beings that protected the Egyptians, living and dead. The direct form of it seems to have originated in Chaldea or Babylon, but there is no religion in the world of any importance today that does not have angels. They are found on the Buddhist monuments, and in the beautiful Buddhist paintings and various statuary. They are found in China and India and Burma. They were very important in Persia. They occur frequently in the literature of the orthodox Jewish faith. They are part of the Christian story. And we find them arising wherever the human being has been in the urgent need of help. They are also a very essential part of the basic philosophy of Islam.
Everywhere we find beliefs in these beings, beliefs that there are beings that can help and can stay with the individual throughout life. These invisible beings, looked upon as guardians and protectors, are foster parents—mysterious benefactors. Sometimes they are regarded as having come from some great heights beyond human understanding. In the Christian and Jewish concepts the angels are represented as winged because they are constantly able to travel inconceivable distances to fulfill the needs and missions. They are also bringers of annunciations. They are revealers of great spiritual happenings, the sources of visions and all kinds of spiritual experiences.
The artists of the renaissance and earlier had made some magnificent paintings of the guardian angels and of the angels of the presence. The ancient countries believed that they had angels that guarded their countries and it was long believed by the Jewish people that Michael, the archangel, was the guardian of Israel. All these different beliefs finally posed a problem of seeking some form of rational explanation for them.
To have a belief that goes all over the world, accepted by some of the world’s finest minds, that is not provable or demonstrable in terms of facts is always a difficult situation to face; yet it has not interfered markedly with the beliefs in these beautiful beings who are the particular custodians of the divine love, sharing it with mortality and bringing it into the world.
The Egyptians gave us some psychological clues to this situation and also we can look to the physical problems of today to see if we can understand the psychology behind this particular situation, perhaps best expressed by one of the mystics of Europe, namely, that where there is a great necessity that it must be fulfilled, it must occur if it is necessary. Where there is a great need for some form of spiritual security it is certain that Nature bestows it, but we are not quite wise enough or not open enough to understand what is happening.
Today we are in a world of lonely people, people who are losing faith in themselves and faith in their societies. Fear is becoming one of the most common of all emotions. We are more lonely perhaps than at any time in the last two thousand years, but we remember the journey of man as described by Plotinus where he said that life is a journey of the lonely, to that which is alone. In other words, the individual goes to that which is the final supreme end of all existence, Deity, and that Deity in a strange way is also alone, having nothing except internal eternity upon which to depend.
It has been natural throughout all the crowded and suffering periods of history for humanity to build some kind of an image of faith, of hope, of charity, and to gradually lean more and more upon this without tangible knowledge of why. The proof of the existence of the guardian angel did come to a great many people. It came in strange ways: the fulfillment of prayer—the individual asking for help when depending only upon the help of the invisible, received that help. As a result it seemed inevitable that all this faith was real, that all these hopes and prayers and divine expectations were part of a Divine Plan and not a mirage arising in the human mind itself.
Actually, of course, there is no doubt in the world that the great benefit of the belief in the guardian angel was the fact that it strengthened character, provided inducement for virtue, made it easier to understand and bear burdens, and brought the realization that no matter what happens or how often it happens or where it happens, no one is ever alone. We are never less alone than when alone, according to one of the poets.
The fact that we are not alone perhaps changes the entire destiny of many individuals. They suddenly feel themselves to have a strength that is not their own, a strength that is supported by a divine edict, by a divine presence, by something like an invisible mother or father that walks with them, that stays with them through life. Another example from Buddhism is where the pilgrim going on his journey of pilgrimage from one shrine to another wears a broad-brimmed straw or bamboo hat on which are the words that he walks with another, the another being the Buddha. So this another that is stronger than we are and yet is with us and is available to us night and day, anytime, anywhere became the basis of a great deal of mystical experience; mystical experience gradually bestowed upon this conviction dream, and vision likenesses.
Individuals saw these spirits. Paracelsus describes in detail all the nature spirits and the gnomes, the undines, and the salamanders that ancients believed were the custodians of flowers and plants. The American Indian in the plains had his totems. He had an animal spirit that guided him. He had to go out and perform vigil and learn what animal was to protect him. If when he went on vigil and had a dream of an eagle, the eagle became his protector for an entire lifetime. He prayed to it, thought about it, and knew that the strength of the eagle was his as long as he kept the rules.
The effectiveness of this concept that this being that loved us would help always if we deserve it put a moral factor into the situation, which is perhaps a greater moral factor than any other that we have ever been able to conceive in the search for integrities. It is true that we believe in a large, remote way that the good life is the life that leads to salvation, but this is a very big thing and we do not understand too much about salvation either. What we do realize or feel is that if there is something that is taking care of us and loves us and will take care and protect us if we keep its laws—this is all right in our own hearts, in our homes, everywhere that we go. There is an immediacy about it that seems to have a tremendous power of help. Also, this angel knows every thing that we do. Therefore, we may think we can hide, but we cannot. We cannot perform in secret any act that the guardian angel does not know about. And sometimes children will actually ask the guardian angel to look the other way, but there is no proof that it does.
The idea is that there is a companion sent from heaven who loves us, who constantly guides us, who helps to make difficult problems more simple, and when the time comes for us to leave this world we will then find that this angel has stood for us in heaven and has witnessed our virtues before the throne of the Almighty. We find in Matthew, for instance, that Jesus makes reference to the angels when He says of these angels, that every child who comes into the world has an angel and that when the time comes for that child to depart from this world the angel intercedes for it before the throne of God. Therefore, we have an actual reference to angel protectors and angels born with children in the words of Jesus.
Psychologists would probably explain these concepts as an aspect of our own subjective, submerged intellect—that we are really thinking out into the open something believed or experienced within ourselves. Science does not notice, however, that that is also the way we build great buildings, cathedrals, churches, monuments. Every advancement of knowledge comes from somewhere within and has become a protector for some weakness on the outside. From the inner we seek protection for the outer and we also seek from the inner means of glorifying the higher.
These trends have finally emerged in the story of this mysterious being. The philosophy or science of it as it appears in its most complete form is that each person who comes into the world has an invisible spirit that comes with it, that this invisible spirit goes along through the years guarding, guiding, and leading, taking on the responsibilities of parents when the child or person outgrows his physical parents. And if for some reason the physical parents are not available or not useful or not concerned, the guardian angel starts serving even at the time of birth itself. And it never leaves during life, remaining to the very end and guiding the individual into the world beyond. In a sense the guardian angel becomes, therefore, also the angel of death—the power that leads the person into the other life and bestows peace upon it in transition if its moral character has been correct.
Now it was not long, however, before the concept of the guardian angel began to have other aspects. If this good spirit was always with us and was always working with us, why did we do so many naughty things? Why doesn’t the guardian angel keep us in virtue all our lives? This is a question that theology has never been able to solve in the problem of creation itself, but theology has always been confronted with the Christ and the anti-Christ, the good and the bad. Thus in the doctrine of the guardian angel it was assumed that actually there were two of these powers— one good, as the Greeks pointed out, that went with you to do all that was wonderful and beautiful, and one lurking that would take over if you were wicked and made life completely miserable for you. Here we have the genesis of Goethe’s Faust and Mephistopheles—the spirit of evil or negation; which, however, represented the spirit of retribution by which we ultimately learn to outgrow our own mistakes.
Most medieval people, particularly in the periods when magic, sorcery, and demonology were prevalent, believed that there were two of these beings. The good spirit they called the guardian angel, and the bad spirit they called the guardian on the threshold—a mysterious monstrosity that each individual had to rise above before he could pass to a better life beyond. In other words, this was more or less an embodiment of karma, the type of karma that the individual suffered as a result of his own misdeeds. The guardian on the threshold was in control and command of the imperfect life, if it was bad enough to deserve such punishment; then it was the one that took over and brought the life back into material existence again, starting the karmic cycle once more.
In the ancient Egyptian and Greek mysteries there were two guardians at the doors of the temple. One was a beautiful spirit, very often in Christian art represented as holding an anchor. The other was the spirit of the guardian on the threshold, a more gruesome image, part animal— there to test whether or not the individual was worthy to continue on to a higher life. These became parts of symbolism and ritualism and are found in many different beliefs over periods of time. It is fair to say, however, that the guardian on the threshold was never as popular as the guardian angel; but something that also played a part in man’s moral life because if good protected him, evil dishonored him.
The most important point was that death did not end evil. In some mysterious way, what we are survives life on this material planet. Therefore, the idea that we can escape by becoming eternally unaware that we would simply cease to exist, was something that the ancients simply could not contemplate without asking certain relevant questions. There is no possible answer sensible to man that would end a situation such as we have here with oblivion. We cannot imagine the long and painful years of living, the consecrations and dedications, the virtues and the vices that all end in nothing. The human mind just could not contemplate that. It required a scientific education to be an atheist. Without that, you just cannot make it. But if there is something beyond, then that something is worth thinking about. It is also worth striving to understand.
In about the early seventeenth century we had the rise of a great Christian mysticism, a mysticism which was gradually secularized but which began undoubtedly in the early church itself. In this mysticism there were contemplations and thoughts, experiences such as those of Emanuel Swendenborg, the rise of spiriticism in many forms, and finally spiritualism itself. In all these concepts men were reaching for hope.
During World War I a great many families were disrupted by the loss of a loved one, and immediately there was a rise of interest in spiritualism. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Oliver Lodge, and others spearheaded a revival of spiritualistic phenomena because of the loss and pain and because of man trying to understand why the problems of sorrow should be brought to the earth by man’s own conniving— why he should make for himself tragedy and involve others in it.
The whole doctrine of the guardian angel finally summarizes in man’s infinite need—something to help this sadness, this deprivation from which so many suffer, especially noticeable probably in the older age groups. So many older people live alone. Some are disillusioned and bitter, some live with their griefs day and night, others try to forget everything. Always before them is a curtain, a veil through which they must sometime pass. Without something to help in this it is inevitable that the human estate could not be glorified. But the answer does seem to be in the realization that there is something. There is something there to protect us, something there for us to understand and to do something about.
Little by little the fact was introduced that in some way this guardian angel could communicate with us; even though we could not see it and did not know very much about it, we felt its guiding influence. We felt that when we were in trouble it sort of stood by and tried to show us a way out. It was there in places of temptation, there to wag its finger at us more or less reprovingly when we used bad words. Its influence was that of another kind of parent, something that would correct our faults, and protect our virtues, and be there when most needed.
This concept was finally given a name and I think that probably this name is the key to the whole thing. We have said that the guardian angel communicated with mankind through conscience, that in some mysterious way conscience was a being, an entity, and that that entity was constantly there to help; that somewhere in our own nature there was a realization of good and evil superior to dogma, theology, or the vicissitudes of an inconsistent economy. Somewhere in us there was something that said, “Don’t do it.” Or on another occasion, “You can’t say that; it isn’t true.” And if you go against this guardian angel they said that it wept. Well, conscience weeps, because sometimes conscience weeps for a lifetime over one mistake. We do not get over completely the evils that we commit or the problems that we cause for other people, and we cannot hide it from the guardian angel—how could we hide it from our own conscience?
Therefore, in many ways it would appear that the guardian angel is a symbol and an embodiment of the power of the human soul—that in the soul is something that is born with us, is with us all our lives, and after death goes on to testify for us. It made a bit of sense with some of the more modern psychotherapists that in a mysterious way there was something in each individual that is better than the rest of him. To simply call it God is too abstract. It is true that God bestows life and is the final source of all, but the good life seems to come to those who make certain additional contributions to their own salvation. The good life is for those who someway find a way of truth in the midst of these difficulties.
So the conscience becomes the symbol or as it says in Hamlet: “For conscience doth make cowards of us all.” Every time we outrage conscience, we suffer. Every time we go against it, we regret it. In many cases conscience is something we would love to forget. We wish we could go against it because it interferes with so many things that we want to do, but should not do.
Conscience appears to be forever growing in a mysterious way. Whether it is actually growing is not so certain. Perhaps it is manifesting itself a little more all the time because things that we might have done at one stage of life without feeling a twinge of conscience become the source of conscience regrets as we grow older and commit the same action. If in any way conscience is adversely used, then we realize that there is a support in society for conscience. Conscience is tied into our legal codes, ethics, morality, and all of our human relationships. It is tied into our sacraments and the qualifications of faith. It is bestowed in the act of baptism and with us in the last moment of extreme unction. Conscience is right there; if we truly believe it is there and that it is our power of light and ever present strength in time of trouble, then it becomes a very valuable and important part of ourselves.
There seems to be some relationship between conscience now and conscience in the past. We seem to be born into this world on different degrees of conscience levels. Some have a higher standard of what is right than others, some with one virtue, some with another. In religion particularly the education of these virtues can be largely sectarian. Some religions consider virtues which other faiths believe to be vices. So conscience is related intimately to our own needs, our own degrees of understanding, our own insights into values, and the immediate problems that we must face on our own social levels.
Let us assume for a moment now that conscience has become the voice of the guardian angel. It certainly can well be considered as such because we know that these impulses arise and that when we go against them there is trouble. Once we begin to deceive or corrupt our integrities, it becomes easier and easier. A false guidance comes to us, a false guidance which is largely the pressure from the outside, so that we divide between the guardian angel and the guardian on the threshold in this way: the guardian angel represents the descent of spiritual grace; the other, the guardian on the threshold, is a false concept or false standard of integrity that is built upon the contamination by worldliness. One is a contamination, and the other a regeneration. The contamination part is always a spirit of decline, always something that is destroying rather than healthy. War, crime, and degeneracy destroy; the appetites to these things do not originate in God, nor do they originate in the guardian angel. They are the testimonies of the external sensory perceptions in cases where the individual has never learned to control himself. They represent the pressures of the animal instincts which still lurk within the human constitution.
It all sums up to one general conclusion: that at least in part the guardian angel is a symbol of the human soul. The soul itself is that power of good which determines our integrities, guides and leads us through the issues of life. The soul is something that we can all depend upon. We can depend upon it for all of the strength that is necessary to face the problems of the day.
The Egyptian believed that man had seven souls and that after death six of these souls gradually died, but the seventh soul was eternal and went on to the next embodiment, was reborn, and continued to be their born guardian soul in the new life. These seven souls of good represent the seven cardinal virtues of the church, the seven integrities that are regarded as the basis of acceptability in the sight of God. Each of these has its own areas, and it becomes obvious that in the course of evolution some of these virtues either no longer are effective or are transformed in some way. The lower virtues, that belong to the physical life, of course, are the ones that die first because we do not take them so far into the other life. We do not go against them, but we no longer need them. Finally, the radiance of the great soul principle itself absorbs the seven degrees of its own nature and becomes a shining mystery, a spiritual planetarium in which the seven stars of the ancients shine in the structure of the human soul.
The soul has its controls, divisions, subdivisions and, in some instances, the ancients believed that there were several guardian angels assigned to a person for various reasons. For example, supposing this person had decided to become a priest—the guardian angel would therefore be able to select a priestly guardian for that life. Another one wished to be an artist and in addition to the natal daemon, as it was called, there was a special angel appointed to perfect beauty in the life of that person. All beautiful and good things came from beings and not from circumstances or incidents. That which is, as one ancient said, great enough and strong enough to bring a man to his knees in the presence of a great painter is not dead; it is alive. Beauty is a living thing. Beauty is a part of the soul.
All parts of the good in man are soul powers and those that go against these soul powers lose or are deficient and gradually drop back again to a comparatively animal level of existence. The soul is the substance of the good, the beautiful, and the aspiring When Stradivarius was asked how he happened to make violins, he replied: “God made Antonio to make violins.” In the concept of the guardian soul, when the soul comes into life it is supposed to have the power to select within a certain range what it will do with life after it gets here. It chooses its own career and faces the problems before they occur. If he decides like Stradivarius to make violins, a great artist, a great musical muse, a great musical sybil will come with him to guide him through his years, not only because of his need, but this is a service performed by the guardian angels. In their helping the individual to fulfill his own greatness, or his own needs, they are also contributing to the glory of the world and all that is necessary for the perfection of human endeavor. The guardian angel that watched over Michelangelo served all mankind. The ancients believed that definitely this was a spirit, and that this spirit would only come when truth prevailed— would only give beauty when integrity was there.
There is a story of a couple of art critics wandering through the Luxembourg Art Gallery in Paris. They came upon the work of an artist, looked it over, and finally one of them said: “This is an exceptionally fine painting.” And the other one said: “Yes. It is his greatest work, because he was in love when he did it.” This again was the angel because if the love was sincere and pure, the angel was there to help. All due to the integrities of things are the stories of the guardian angels. It might be a very worthwhile contribution if somewhere along the line some one would adapt this concept into a small child’s book—a book of fairy tales but tales in which the fairies are the power of the human soul; a book in which an idea is projected to the child that the love in it, the love that may make it love a doll, is also part of a great love principle that exists in nature, and that this principle, like all others, is alive.
This love principle is not simply something that comes out of nothing but one of the divine births of God. It is said in the ancient cabala and other works that when God formed all things in His own likeness He formed many things in His likeness that are invisible because those parts of Him self are invisible; but that everything in the world, whether visible or invisible, has conscience, laws, and principles. Sometimes these principles are revealed only by the stratifications of a tree or the fission of a gem. Sometimes they are in the mother love of the tiger for its cubs. Whatever it is, it is part of the universal process that overshadows the physical concerns of life.
We are approaching a season especially sacred to over a billion human beings. This season is one in which the concept of the guardian angel may be most interesting, for nearly always the annunciation was represented as bestowed or communicated by the angel Gabriel. Actually, the vision of what was to come, the divine message, comes to us not from the outside but through the inner part of our own nature. The soul is the link between the invisible causes of things and their visible consequences. The soul, if studied scientifically, may prove to be a problem in vibration.
The vibrations of things tell their virtues and their vices. Therefore, a negative emotion or attitude causes damage in the magnetic fields of the human body. We are all living on vibrations in one form or another. We may call it energy, we may call it vitality; but actually vibration is the source of our lives. It maintains everything that can possibly happen, and its rates change as we change. Vibration changes with every thought that comes into the mind. The study of the magnetic fields of bodies proves conclusively that the moment the individual becomes selfish, the light around him changes and one who can see that light knows selfishness has moved in.
Now selfishness of course is toxic. All negative vibrations are toxic. Everything that we should not do and insist on doing is damaging to the whole composite nature with which we are endowed. Everywhere, however, when a noble or beautiful thought is fulfilled, the vibration clears, the lights brighten, the soft glows continue, and in a strange way every cell in the human being feels better. It is better because the magnetic field is wrapping it in light and not in darkness.
It is the right of every creature and every being to improve for the sake of its own peace of mind, its own health, its own success in life. The vibrations of the guardian angel can reach out into our physical existence also. Our guardian angels make us better to live with, kinder in our works. They give us more patience, understanding, and visions of better things than we would normally contemplate. All through the years of life, if we follow the footsteps of the spirit guide, so to say, we will achieve a great deal more.
The guardian angel, of course, is not a deceased relative nor a spiritualistic phenomena, nor something that carries on from the other side a continuance of this material life. The guardian angel is part of the causal nature of existence, part of the infinite plan in which we live. So if we can on these occasions understand this, it may help us to also appreciate more completely the approaching season of Christmas, a Christmas which is being blurred and damaged because we are not listening to the voices of conscience; we are not really trying to do what the guardian angel would have us do.
There is a grave question as to whether the guardian angel is much interested in prosperity, or in extravagant gift taking or making. The guardian angel’s rejoicing comes with thought, love, sincerity, devotion, and self-sacrifice in causes greater than ourselves. The guardian angel does not want us to give something we have; it wants us to give something we are. It wants us to share a life with someone or with something, to reach out and touch that which is in pain or in sorrow, and do something about it. The guardian angel becomes the spirit of charity, and this is just one of its attributes, one of the virtues which it represents. Every thing that is beautiful and good finally in its source becomes an aspect of this mysterious being, this power of good that lives with us, works with us, suffers with us. There are old pictures and old symbols showing the guardian angel weeping because of the failure of the person to accept the challenge of integrity.
Other countries and other parts of the world have different ways of representing these powers, but all in all there is not too much difference in them. They are impelling the person constantly to the accomplishment of something. It is the guardian angel that impels some persons to become members of the clergy. It is the guardian angel that inspires some people to be parents and good members of a family. It is the guardian angel that wants to see that the little one belonging to the world is born into a happy and loving family. The true father and mother will be the ones whose impulses and urges are those of the guardian angel; they have accepted the guidance and guardianship of a life.
All these very sensitive and gentle objectives belong to a way of life that is hard for us to understand. It is also very difficult for us not to assume that these things are antique or moribund or that they do not exist anymore—they all belong to the past. There are a number of ways in which the past in a strange way was more beautiful than the present.
We all know that in the great evolutionary course of things the past was necessary, but we had to leave it behind. But there is no reason why we should not retain anything that is good that was ever in the world because all this good is locked within the concept of the guardian angel. It brings with it the wisdom of the past. It gives us the insights and the moralities and the integrities of long ago. It bestows the impulses to dedications, to self-sacrifice. It creates people like Mohandas Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln. These are people living by virtue of the soul within them. Each one has gradually revealed out of its own life the workings of the guardian angel, and all guardian angels, when they work, transform people into guardians also. The guardian angel was the power that manifested itself in Lincoln when he became a guardian of a new way of life in this country.
In ancient times people like Pythagoras had their spirits. Pythagoras was regarded as an embodiment of Apollo. He also had an attendant muse that was with him. These people, according to legends, were guided by mysterious beings that accompanied them. It was a muse, or maybe a guardian angel, who appeared to the Emperor Julian and told him to take the purple. He only reigned for less than two years, but the angel told him it was his duty. Others have probably inspired men like Luther to retire into banishment and spend his life translating the Bible.
Wherever there is a labor to be done, it is the progress of the soul in man that makes that labor possible. Growth comes from the soul; not from the mind or the body. And the growth that comes from the soul has always been regarded as the blessing of the guardian angel. Each person in his own way may have this wonderful being working for him, with him, and by him in all the works of life. We certainly realize that in a mysterious way, according to the early church, that when the Christian dispensation was fully established, it gradually usurped the powers of the guardian angel. One of the early church fathers said that the guardian angel of the whole world is now the spirit of Jesus Christ, that the guardian angels have all given their authority to Him. But on the other hand, the church admits that He works through the guardian angels also. They bow before Him but they still do His work.
There was this belief in the church which has continued to the present time that man is never left without help, even when things seem to be so bad that one does not know what to do next, where tragedy seems to move in on every side, there is not only help but insight, another virtue of the guardian angel. Our tendency is to accept and reject without much consideration or thought. We do as we feel like doing without much consideration or thought. We try to accept things as we feel about them and not give them much attention, but insight is the power of the individual. When strengthened by faith in the presence of a guardian spirit, the insight is what the guardian tells us about the real reason for happenings. The guardian angel then brings, through conscience and through inner experience, the realization that everything that happens to the individual is important. Everything that happens is a discipline of some kind, sort of initiation into the great mysterious existence. Every sorrow is an opportunity to grow bigger. Every loss is a gain of some kind. Everything we have is a challenge for use. Everything we lose is something to give up with graciousness and kindness. Every friend is to be cultivated. Every enemy is to be reconverted into friendship. There is nothing negative to be left unchanged, nothing that is positive to be overlooked.
This becomes perhaps the greatest of all Christian disciplines, the fulfillment of the whole story we recognize in the life of Christ. Christ represents to many people a being from God who came to protect people, to move humanity from the weaknesses of their natures. This process of saving cannot be fulfilled unless the Christ in you performs the labor. In a sense, guardian angels are the aspect ministers of the Christ power in man. They follow the commandments of the New Testament, The Last Supper, The Sermon on the Mount. The guardian angel tells us to keep the rules. The guardian angel says: “Forgive your enemy.”
We do not have to forgive the enemy. We have the power of limited determinism, as St. Thomas Aquinas called it. We do not have to forgive the enemy, but if we do not we have lost contact with truth. Something is lost in us, something has been done that has defiled us. We have not fulfilled that which our highest spiritual dedication should make essential. We have allowed animosities, antagonisms, jealousies, revenges to take over, all of which are abominations, as they are called in the Bible. What we are all trying to do is find the courage to follow conscience, to follow the integrities of life, and to go on according to the spirit of our faith, a spirit that depends for its perfection, its manifestation, its fulfillment upon us.
We say: “I can’t quite make it. I’m not strong enough, I haven’t enough insight to forgive this person who has injured me. I can’t get over the grief, the grudge, or something of this nature.” In the moment we say that, if we are perfectly quiet and just let Nature have its own way, the guardian angel will help. It will come as the spirit of conscience, revealing to us all the elements and factors necessary for a proper adjustment. It will calm the antagonisms. It will help us to realize that such attitudes are not of God but belong, if anything, to the anti-God or anti-Christ, and that there is nothing to be gained by perpetuating evil. Perhaps we will say to the conscience: “I would like to, but I can’t forget. I can never forget what has happened.” And the guardian angel says: “Don’t forget; understand.” If you do that you will probably find that you can transform the injury into soul power and soul growth.
It is good to hold to the concept that there is someone around who is on our side of almost anything, as long as we are on the side of truth. If we can be on the side of the realities of life, there is a presence always with us, something invisible but something real. Perhaps we like to think of it as the higher part of ourselves, or as the soul we have received from God. Perhaps we would like to think of it as an elder brother or sister somewhere watching over, or a kind of spiritual parent that never fails. Whatever we want to consider it, the belief in a guardian angel has undoubtedly contributed a great deal to the moral growth of mankind; whether it is provable or not, it is a beautiful necessity. It is something we are all better for believing, whereas doubts and negative attitudes do nothing to help—they give us no strength or insight with which to labor for the perfection of our society or the advancement of our own ethics.
It is appropriate at this time to try to know this character in yourself, to find the guardian angel. All you have to do to find it is to be quiet for a moment, think a beautiful thought, and it is there. Keep the understanding that there is a being that is all love and is with you always, and therefore always available to express itself in your own love for all values that are right, all duties that need the doing.