Angels

Question: Are there really angels in Heaven? Wouldn't that mean levels? I personally believe there are no such divisions.

Answer: The key with a question like this is to not try to solve it by using our understanding of Course theory (no levels in Heaven) to predict what the Course would say. The key is to find out what the Course actually does say. There are a number of references in the Course to angels. Some years back, I wrote an article about these references entitled "Watch with Me, Angels" ( Watch With Me, Angels). In that article, I said this:

These passages clearly treat angels as real, rather than as mere symbols or metaphors. In several passages they function right alongside other real things; for example, "Your newborn purpose is nursed by angels, cherished by the Holy Spirit and protected by God Himself" (1). Here, angels share what is essentially a parenting function (in rearing "your newborn purpose") with God and the Holy Spirit.

What I find most striking about these passages on angels is that a cohesive picture emerges from them. In this picture, their function is to nurture the birth of the Christ in us. There are times in our lives when we experience an inner shift that is so profound that it allows the Christ, our true Self, to be reborn in us. This tiny infant will then slowly grow up until He is a mature adult, ready to stride out into the world and perform His ministry through our hands and our voice.

The Course portrays angels as attending this holy birth: "Watch with me, angels…while Heaven's Son is born" (W-pII.303.1:1, 2). They nurse it: "Your newborn purpose is nursed by angels" (T-19.IV(C).9:4). They hover over us, to protect this new birth from our dark thoughts: "Around you angels hover lovingly, to keep away all darkened thoughts of sin, and keep the light where it has entered in" (T-26.IX.7:1). And they spread their wings over us, to shelter the holy infant in us from the heat of hateful thoughts: "The angels…surround the ground on which you stand sing to you as they spread out their wings to keep you safe, and shelter you from every worldly thought that would intrude upon your holiness" (W-pI.183.2:2).

This picture is clearly reminiscent of the Christmas story, where angels appear to announce and attend the birth of Jesus. But now it has a much more personal application. Think of some instance in your life where you experienced a profound spiritual shift, where something was born in you that changed everything. Now imagine that the angels were there to watch this birth, and that since then have nursed it, sheltered it, and protected it, so that instead of withering and dying, it could keep on growing until it reached its fully realized state. How can that not inspire comfort as well as gratitude?

The reality of angels comes across even more plainly in material that didn't make it into the published Course. In the Urtext (the Course's original typescript), Jesus spoke to Bill's fears about being possessed by demons. Jesus said that we can only be possessed by our own thoughts. Nothing else really has power over us. But while saying this, he also said that there are fallen angels; there are demons:

After all, Lucifer fell, but he was still an angel. He is thus the symbol for man. [?] Atonement is the knowledge that the belief that angels can fall is false. It is true that mind can create projections as well as miracles, but it's not true that projections are real [this refers to an earlier statement that Lucifer projected himself from Heaven]. Any psychologist should understand this. This is what is meant by "The Truth shall set you free."

The "Princes of this World" are princes only because they are really angels. But they are free to establish their kingdom where they see fit. If you will remember that all princes inherit their power from the Father, the right choice becomes inevitable. (Urtext)

I find this to be a fascinating and touching passage. When we think of demons, we probably experience a silent shudder. They seem to be pure evil. Yet this passage says that, even though they have fallen, they are still angels. It says that "Atonement is the knowledge that the belief that angels can fall is false." In other words, fallen angels are not really fallen; they are still as pure and holy as the day that God created them. Lucifer may have projected himself from Heaven (as an earlier Urtext passage says), but as any psychologist knows, projections are not real. Which means that, in actuality, Lucifer is still in Heaven.

The second paragraph continues this theme. The "princes of this world" is a biblical reference (from the writings of Paul) to the demons that supposedly rule this world (which, if true, would explain a lot about how things work down here!). Jesus speaks of them with an almost evident fondness. We may think of demons as pure evil, yet he reminds us that they are princes because they are really angels, because they inherited their power from their Father, the King. As such, these princes "are free to establish their kingdom where they see fit." Jesus demonstrates a real peace about the fact that they have chosen to transfer their dominion from Heaven to this world, where they spread a cloak of evil over their unholy kingdom. "So what?" you can almost hear Jesus say. Even if they have left Heaven, they are still princes, they are still angels, they are still of their Father. They seem to have fallen into evil, but their true nature remains just as lofty and transcendent as ever. And that is why they are the symbol for man. In other words, Lucifer, in both his demonic appearance and his untainted angelic purity, is the perfect symbol for you and me.

So, yes, the Course does teach that angels are real. In their purity, they are the most beautiful midwives and nursemaids that we could imagine for the birth of the Christ in us. And even when they fall, they are not to be feared, for a) we can only be possessed by our own thoughts, and b) those fallen angels are really just the same as we are, we who outwardly appear selfish and destructive but who still retain the pure angelic nature God gave us.

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