By David Olliff
Sometime after Doreen Virtue announced that she was returning to her Christian roots, I received my copy of her Angel Therapy Handbook. I was exploring angelic healing at the time and quite oblivious to the change in direction Doreen Virtue was taking. I only learned of Doreen Virtue’s new spiritual emphasis from a friend a few weeks ago, and I was quite surprised by the way in which my friend seemed disappointed by the news.
As a Christian myself, although not one closely associated with any particular church, I wondered why it should be a matter of surprise, let alone disappointment, to find that someone who has worked with angels might also find room for Jesus. It seems to me that Jesus, and the angels, are inseparable realities. In the Gospel accounts the angels feature at the beginning and at the end of Jesus’ life, as well as being a part of his life on earth. The archangel Gabriel foretells the birth of Jesus; angels minister to Jesus at times of crisis; and two angels are found in the empty tomb signifying the resurrection.
The one Christian writer who we have to thank for describing the entire hierarchical structure of angels is a mysterious character from the 6th century CE known as Pseudo Dionysius. He describes nine layers of angelic energy and he is clear that angels not only exist, but they are a relational bridge between us and the divine. Contact with these angelic energies is not only possible, but an essential part of our being able to participate in the divine life of the ultimate One. Pseudo Dionysius is clear that without angelic intermediaries, God is unknowable.
Pseudo Dionysius goes further however as a Christian writer, and links the angelic order with the Christ, the divine Christ energy which was manifested in Jesus. The myriad of angels, countless numbers of them running up and down the ladder to heaven, spanning all of space and time, are to be realised offering their hands to guide us gently into the sphere of the divine. The important point for Pseudo Dionysius however is that this angelic ladder IS the Christ; God’s infinite love in relationship to us, inviting us home. Perhaps we might speculate then that Doreen Virtue’s vision of Jesus was not of a single angel, but of all the angels at once and more: a totality of the divine abundance through which we live, love, and have our being.
Work with the angels has become a helpful spiritual practice for many in this the “New Age”, guided as we have been by writers such as Kyle Gray, Diana Cooper and Doreen Virtue. Perhaps it is useful to categorise their approach as belonging to New Age spirituality, if by that we mean something connected with divine love, yet unrestrained by dogma or excessive doctrine. I would like to suggest that far from being a challenge to New Age spirituality, the teachings of Jesus show that he embraced it and lived it to an inspirational degree.
One of the most central spiritual teachings which the New Age approach to angels advocates is trust in divine abundance. The beautiful idea that divine love is so overwhelming that we can each learn to trust in divine abundance to support, nurture and provide for us. Of all the examples that suggest themselves in the Gospels, the simplest image of ultimate trust in the divine comes as Jesus sleeps through the storm whilst on a boat with his disciples. While those on the boat panic, Jesus remains at peace. Jesus can sleep without fear, because when Jesus sleeps he rests in the arms of angels. This is the spiritual teaching for many of us who are troubled by worry and fear, and the one thing our angels want us to know: you can rest, because you rest under divine wings.
I would like to finish by suggesting that in matters of the divine, there is never competition. The divine abundance makes all things possible, and that in recognising the Christ we can still love our angels as travellers with us on that golden ladder between now and heaven.