Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
There are two principal aspects to the manifestation of an angel: first of all, the angel manifests outside the human, and will generally speaking appear “above” whoever it is visiting. The angel is generally perceived as being intimately close to whoever it is visiting. This can be an extremely disturbing experience because angels are, from the human point of view, absolutely alien intelligences of a completely different level than our own. Their appearance is always a huge shock and absolutely terrifying, because they live so far outside any ordinary experience it is impossible to process or understand their existence, when first encountered. It would not be going too far to say that paralyzing fear, with one’s hair standing on end, is the first reaction if an angel enters the room at night while one is in bed.
The other subjective experience any human being has on his or her first encounter with an angel is an impression of the enormous power imbued in these creatures. They represent a force of a different level, and that is instinctively known the instant that one appears. The physical and emotional reactions stimulated by an angel are primal, even primordial.
Because these forces so rarely manifest on our level, once again, the impression is one of terror. It’s only because angels radiate their intention wordlessly into the marrow of the bones that human beings receive reassurance that they need not fear. This creates what one might call an “energy bond” between the angel and the person they are visiting.
Through this bond, which is invisible and instantaneously transmits whatever aim, purpose, and intention the angel has in regard to the person they are visiting, the angel and its subject are bound into one creature for a few moments. In this way, it’s unnecessary for angels to speak or have conversations, at least in the way that we understand them. Although angels are capable of such things, that type of communication is, overall, entirely unnecessary, since angels are so readily capable of directly installing understanding.
Angels don’t generally spend a lot of time around the people they visit. Swedenborg was an unusual exception to this rule, since God had tasked him with an extensive and exceptional occupation. The type of “help” that Gurdjieff speaks of in his note is an infusion of heavenly energies into the subject. That infusion does not affect an immediate transformation but instills a kind of “preview” of what is spiritually possible in later development for the person that is given to. It is, in other words, a form of initiation.
That initiation does not give the person who is initiated instructions on what to do— to do so is forbidden in the heavenly angelic hierarchies, but (unfortunately) more or less de rigueur in the hellish ones — but rather introduces them to range of inward spiritual potentials which become the responsibility of the recipient. Those energies are generally transformational in nature and effect permanent physical inner changes on those who receive them.
These energies are derived from massive planetary and solar sources and have the potential, with every individual who receives them, to cause disruptive changes in their personalities. It’s not unheard of for people who are unprepared to receive such energy — we can only imagine why these things happen, it’s not entirely clear — and be knocked off kilter by them. This particular type of manifestation shows that even heaven makes mistakes, a point I have written about extensively.
Once energies of this kind are instilled into a living person as help, the recipient of the help becomes responsible for making many years of effort to understand and absorb the help that has been given. All of that takes place not as some beatifically transformed creature of heavenly energies, but as an ordinary person who is required to struggle mightily with the ordinary conditions of life, while having a second level of struggle imposed upon them, that is, one that involves the receipt of angelic and Godly energies and their integration into the ordinary world and their ordinary life.
White robes and halos, in other words, are not issued with angelic visitations. These are practical and pragmatic events that carry real work and real difficulties with them. Human fantasies about them predispose most people who have an angelic encounter to abuse it in one way or another. Only a long-standing and firmly grounded spiritual work will help the recipient of angelic visitation to process the energy correctly.
Because of these longstanding problems with the real transmission of “help,” angels watch over those they visit and transmit to. Now, Gurdjieff himself repeatedly told his followers that men have two angels (at a minimum) watch over them: a heavenly Angel and a hellish angel, that is, a “good” and “bad” Angel. These angels are, however, the “passive” Angels of a human being’s presence: they represent the default influences from higher levels that draw a person towards or away from God. That particular conflict is an installed feature of the cosmos, much like a carburetor, and it is the engine that drives life from within which each human being has to choose their inward direction.
This essay will conclude March 15.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.