Seeing angels

Angels are a very popular topic (as are demons). The Guardian has an interview with someone who claims to see them.

Lorna Byrne: ‘I believe in angels’ – interview
Irish mystic Lorna Byrne is not alone, it seems. Not only is she in daily contact with the benign supernatural, her faith is shared by a third of Britons. How in the 21st century can we explain her visions – and our appetite for them?

In the most recent survey of opinion on such matters conducted by ICM for the Bible Society in 2010, 31% of the population professed a clear belief in angels, only 51% said they did not believe, and 17% were unsure. This concurred with a YouGov inquiry asking the same questions in 2004, suggesting that heavenly minions were essentially recession-proof. The ICM survey found that belief was higher among British women (41%) than men (23%), slightly more common among over-45s than those aged 18 to 44, and more prevalent in London, where 40% of people of all creeds professed a faith in angels, than elsewhere.

Since she brought out her first memoir, Angels in My Hair, four years ago [Lorna] Byrne has sold well over half a million books in 50 countries with books translated into 27 languages, including Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. Websites and chatrooms abound, creating a burgeoning industry for other angel watchers. Byrne’s publicist at Hodder & Stoughton suggests to me that the trend for this kind of spiritual conversation has replaced the previous growth market for “misery memoirs”; possibly the shift is something to do with economic doom and gloom – in recession people would rather hear about other people’s miracles than their despair.

Does she see herself in a line of prophets seeing visions?

She does, though she has no idea why she has been chosen.

In her latest book she makes the point that Christmas is a particularly busy time for angel watchers. Has it started yet?

“It has,” she says. “In November they all arrive with their little balls of light. I see then coming down as if down a hillside or a mountain.”

Has she seen the Angel Gabriel?

“He is an odd angel. Very beautiful. I never knew it was him, because he would often be there dressed as a biker…”

As a biker?

“Yes, something like that. I always wanted to reach up and touch his face. Would I say he is more incredible-looking than Michael the Archangel? I would have to say yes.”

And what about the angels in the room with us now? I say. What are they up to?

She has a quick look round at the stacked bookshelves and desks, checking them out. “Let’s say some of them are unemployed at the moment.”

Color me very doubtful that she sees actual angels. She believes that she does or she has hallucinations (this is mentioned in the piece). But the point is that many people do subscribe to a pleasant belief in angels especially guardian angels. They don’t see them but find comfort in assuming they are there or attributing some positive outcome to their oversight. It’s an idea that has a long history and isn’t going away completely anytime soon.

I’ve always found the idea of angels to be dubious, even as a kid. We see no evidence that there are miraculous events on earth as a result of a supernatural intervention. Besides, the idea of angels is highly stylized based on artists interpretations. Most of what people believe about them is an invention of human imagination.

Tip: CFI’s Morning Heresy

  6 comments for “Seeing angels

  1. David W.
    December 3, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    People who believe things like that have always creeped me out, at least a little. No matter what other good qualities they have in their personalities, they dirty their intellect with rather crazy sounding notions. Even when they are generous, kind, and caring, they still sound unbalanced and irrational and deluded enough that I’d feel ill at ease with associating with them. Rational kindness far outweighs, speaking metaphorically, delusional beliefs, no matter how much someone is trying to pretend something into existence. Delusion is just a short few strides away from all out psychosis. I wouldn’t want to be standing next to someone when they went off the deep end.

  2. Phil
    December 3, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    Remember that the figure of the alleged angel is a Middle Ages European invention. Funny how no one ever sees angels as described in the bible, the ones with six wings covering their bodies or four faces man, Ox, lion and eagle.

  3. F89
    December 3, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    Or being burned to ash when they set eyes upon them.

  4. Nos482
    December 4, 2012 at 6:03 AM

    Spontaneous human combustion explained… it’s those damn angels.

    But seriously, aren’t there medications against seeing weird stuff?

  5. Duff
    December 4, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    The best medication against seeing weird stuff is atheism.

  6. December 4, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    There are some weird atheists too.

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