Many years ago, when I was working on my Master’s thesis, I became interested in angels, largely because of their presence and significance in some of the books I was studying: Lawrence’s Stone Angel, Wilson’s Swamp Angel, and Watson’s The Double Hook.
There are many references to angels in literature. Jack Kerouac wrote a semi-autobiographical novel called Desolation Angels. William Carlos Williams wrote of Allen Ginsberg that “he sees with the eyes of the angels.” Gregory Corso, who has been described as a “streetwise angel poet,” wrote quite a lot about angels, including a passage I particularly liked in his poem “Power”:
Angels of Power come down with cups of vengeance
They are demanding compensation.
People! Where is your Power?
The angels of Power are coming down with their cups!
I’ve also always liked the description of the hierarchy of heavenly angels with its nine levels from the first sphere (Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones) to the second sphere (Dominions, Virtues, Powers) down to the third sphere (Principalities, Archangels, Angels.) They are all powerful, but the angels are the only ones to actually walk amongst us, in part because they are the only ones who have feet.
Leonard Cohen wrote songs and poems about angels, and he spoke of his interest in angels in a conversation with poet and novelist Robert Sward. “An angel has no will of its own,” he said. “An angel is only a messenger, only a channel.”
By definition, angels are known to appear suddenly, to have a quality of illumination, and to carry a message. That came to me with regard to an observation I heard recently. In explaining his reasons for liking Dr. Bonnie Henry, my friend’s son said, “She’s like a combination of the best Mum you could imagine, a razor-sharp scientist, and also an angel.”
Dr. Henry does meet those angelic criteria: appearing suddenly on all the media, having a bright presence, and conveying important messages.
These angels work in mysterious ways. They are channels that make us connect things – across years, generations, landscapes and dimensions. They make us pay attention to their communications, often about very important things that are not easily seen and that require work to comprehend.
In the conversation mentioned above, Cohen said, “We sense that there is a will that is behind all things, and we’re also aware of our own will, and it’s the distance between those two wills that creates the mystery that we call religion. It is the attempt to reconcile our will with another will that we can’t quite put our finger on, but we feel is powerful and existent. It’s the space between those two wills that creates our predicament.”
If we think of Nature as being a will that is behind all things, then perhaps this is a time for us to try to align our will with that larger perspective.
It’s something to think about.