There Are More Things In Heaven And Earth

An Islamic perspective on the angelic world

by Abdalhaqq Bewley

“Oh East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.” This line of Rudyard Kipling has frequently been quoted to reinforce the popular misconception, the legacy of crusaders and orientalists, that Islam is an exotic foreign religion with a view of existence quite different from the one we Europeans hold, a perspective quite alien to the classical Christian tradition we have inherited. This prejudice goes very deep, even, in spite of themselves, affecting people who in theory should know better, but how far it is from the truth. In reality Islam is entirely integral to our tradition, a final and definitive restatement of the same eternal truths on which it is based. The Qur’an is explicit on the matter:

It is not piety to turn your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, the one with true piety is him who believes in Allah

and the Last Day, and the Angels, the Book and the Prophets,

and who, despite his love for it, gives away his wealth

to his relatives and to orphans and the very poor,

and to travellers and beggars and to set slaves free,

and establishes the prayer and pays zakat;

those who are true to their contracts when they make them,

and are steadfast in poverty and in illness and in battle.

Those are the people who are true. They are the godfearing.

It is also ironic that Kipling’s line, much to his own exasperation, is almost always quoted out of context. The poem when continued conveys exactly the opposite meaning to the one it is quoted to endorse.

The reason I have begun in this slightly combatative vein is because unless this is clearly grasped there will be a danger that you might take a kind of anthropological approach to my words and put them in some sort of pre-prepared Islamic pigeonhole, thereby missing the whole point of everything I am going to say. You see what is at issue here is not some concept of existence but the way existence actually is, the real nature of the universe we inhabit. This is the business of Islam as it has always been the business of every true approach to knowledge. The extract from the Qur’an I quoted outlines the underlying premises on which all the great traditional knowledge-systems of mankind have always been based. Behind all of them is the acceptance that we live in a universe created by One Divine Power surrounded by many unseen dimensions or angelic realms; that our existence on this earth is a short-lived affair whose significance lies in the fact that it is the realm of action whose result will become apparent in a further dimension of reality we will encounter when we die; and that Divine Guidance has come to tell us about all these things and to teach us how to live our lives in accordance with them.

This, in brief, was the basic view of existence held by almost every human community from the beginning of human history down to the present age and therefore the question addressed by this conference should not be so much whether angelic beings exist or not, a question about which there is no doubt, but rather how human beings have reached such a point of ignorance that it is necessary to discuss the matter at all.

It is quite clear that up to a certain point in our history these basic realities which I have mentioned remained unquestioned givens. In the European context the traditional view was, for instance, clearly expounded in the 13th Century by Thomas Aquinas. According to Aquinas, all things proceed from God; and God is not only the ground of their being but also the supreme Good with which all seek to be reunited. God created the world in order that He might know Himself more completely. God not only created but continuously sustains the world and governs it both directly by the eternal laws and indirectly through angelic forces. To all creatures He has given a “nature” or “form” in virtue of which they are necessitated both to be what they are, and to seek that which is proper for them. Man is different from other creatures in that only he can aspire to know God and in this lies his only fulfilment but he can either choose or deny this glorious possibility. Man is by his very nature oriented towards the supernatural world; he was created for knowledge of God. This was basically how everyone understood the world they lived in and their place in it.

When I went to a performance of the Merchant of Venice recently I was particularly struck by a speech addressed by Lorenzo to Jessica near the end of the play in which he says:

“There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’stBut in this motion like an angel sings

Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;

Such harmony is in immortal souls;

But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay

Doth grossly close it in we cannot hear it.”

When I heard this it was immediately brought home to me that in Shakespeare’s time the traditional world-view I have been speaking of was still firmly in place. The angelic world and the immortality of the human soul were still very much part and parcel of people’s ordinary consciousness. And this brings me to the title of this talk which, of course, I have also borrowed from the Bard. “There are more things in heaven and earth…” and the quotation continues with Hamlet saying to Horatio: “than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Although Shakespeare’s world was still sustained and nurtured by the old certainties, a new wind was blowing up which was shortly to reach gale force and wreak havoc with the old and true view leaving a very barren landscape in its place. This was the “new philosophy” and it is very possibly what Shakespeare is referring to here. Certainly John Donne, writing a little later, is very explicit on the subject:

“And new philosophy calls all in doubt,

The element of fire is quite put out;

The sun is lost, and the earth, and no man’s wit

Can well direct him where to look for it.

‘Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone;

All just supply and all relation.”

In the “new philosophy” the spiritual gave way to the material. Men became concerned with quantity rather than quality. Human consciousness became more and more confined within the limits of the material universe. It is not my intention to trace the detailed development of this process in this talk. I have gone into it in some detail in another place and for people who are interested in what happened and how it happened I have no hesitation in recommending Basil Willey’s seminal text, The Seventeenth Century Background, which so clearly and eloquently shows how the “new philosophy”, scientific materialism in its germinal stages, penetrated and impermeated the general consciousness. I would like to make it clear at this juncture that I am no Luddite. It is not my intention here to argue the pros and cons of the scientific revolution and the benefit or otherwise of its consequent discoveries. My point is that the pervasive nature of the scientific world view had a profound and far reaching effect on human consciousness. In fact for the human being the result was devastating. It was as if an impenetrable barrier became erected between the spiritual and material worlds and as the scientific world view inexorably imposed itself on and pervaded human consciousness, human beings became, in real terms, cut off from a true view of existence.

Up until this time people had been living at the centre of the universe with the sun and moon and stars revolving around them, above which were the celestial spheres of angelic activity all encompassed by the Throne of God, whose unseen Hand moved and directed the whole affair. From now on people lived on an insignificant mineral mass, a mere part of a minor planetary system, one of countless others lost in the unimaginable vastness of limitless space. For the ordinary person it was just like being suddenly uprooted from a small social environment where everyone is known to each other, the hierarchy clear and unquestioned, all the relationships tried, tested and trusted, the atmosphere benign, all the paths well-trodden, every corner familiar, every livelihood assured, and off-loaded into the alienation and impersonality of a giant modern megapolis whose barren streets seem to go on forever, where every quarter is the same yet unfamiliar, where the dominant energy is fear and mistrust, where even near neighbours are strangers.

Belief in God, which had been an inextricable part, a given, of the human situation became at best an optional extra and increasingly frequently not an option at all. And, of course, as this happened belief in the other foundational realities, the angelic worlds and Divine revelation and human accountability, all of which, of course, depend on belief in God, were themselves eroded and all but washed away. How beautifully though despairingly Matthew Arnold expresses what happened in those famous lines of his poem Dover Beach:

“The Sea of FaithWas once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.

But now I only hear

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

Retreating to the breath

Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear

And naked shingles of the world.”

And the tide has gone a long way further out since then. Even more graphic and perhaps particularly apposite are Yeats’ incisive words:

Turning and turning in the widening gyreThe falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

The fact is that inner fabric of Christendom, having been severely frayed by the storms of the reformation was then completely ripped apart by the onslaught of the “new philosophy”. I want to say here that I am not talking of Christian beliefs or personal piety. What I am referring to is the legal and moral structure of European society. Christianity progressively lost its ability to impinge in any real way on society so that it is now obvious in so many ways, particularly in this country, that in social terms Christianity has disintegrated beyond the possiblity of restoration and that it is demonstrably no longer capable of furnishing that clear guidance which is so necessary for there to be a healthy and just human situation. Of all the traditional systems only Islam has survived complete and intact into our own time still able to provide, unadulterated, a true picture of existence in all its vastness and splendour and the necessary guidance to bring about the social renewal which is so clearly vital at this time. These two things, the collapse of Christian tradition and the integrity of Islam were vividly borne out for me by two personal experiences.

Some time ago I was asked to give a talk on Islam to a study circle run for his parishioners by the vicar of a large rural parish in Norfolk. I gave a straightforward exposition of the basic beliefs and practices of Islam to the dozen or so people present. After the meeting the vicar approached me and thanked me and then said that he had been particularly interested in what I had said about the angels, which he had until then never really believed in or understood! At first I couldn’t believe that he was being serious but then I saw that he was really in earnest. Here was a man officially responsible for the spiritual guidance of a large number of other human beings who was himself ignorant of a huge dimension of existence without knowledge of which any true spiritual development is in reality impossible.

The other experience happened last year during a trip I made to Morocco. While I was there I went to visit a man I have known for many years who is generally recognised as a man of great spiritual knowledge. One thing he said on that occasion is particularly relevant in the context of this talk. He said, “People give this dimension we live in the name of dunya (the arabic word for “this world”) but it really only deserves to be called dweeniya (the diminutive form meaning tiny little “this world”). If people only knew even a little of what God has created they would see that this world, to which they give so much importance, was, in comparison with what God has made, like one white hair in the hide of a black bull.” And he was speaking from his own direct experience. He does not merely believe in the angels he has travelled among them in their realm!

In order to understand what angels are and the role they play in existence it is first essential to have some understanding of how existence functions, of the way creation unfolds, the way the world we live in comes into being. It is clearly beyond the scope of my present purpose to give an account of the whole creational process and this is in no way intended to be that but it is necessary to have the basic picture. Simply put there are three domains of existence known in arabic as Mulk, Malakut, and Jabarut.

The last of these, Jabarut, is the domain of undifferentiated Divine Power, that indivisible Oneness which is at once the Fountainhead and Sustainer of all being and yet totally independent of it. The first of them, Mulk, is the domain of this world, the so-called material universe into which we emerge at birth and where we remain until we die, the space\time world of the seemingly solid objects of our day to day experience. The third term, Malakut, is the bridge between the two. The domain of God’s Throne. The domain of the Mighty Pen and the Guarded Tablet whereby and on which all created things are written down, all that has happened up to now and all that will ever be. The domain of the Day of Judgement and all that happens on it. The domain of the Delights of Paradise and the Terrors of Hellfire. The domain of of the eighteen thousand Unseen Worlds which have never been explored. And most importantly in the light of what has gathered us together here, the domain of the Angels where they live and move and have their being.

All of this and everything that happens in existence takes place continually and instantly by the direct command of God. The angels are the means whereby the commands of God are carried out and this is where the overall function of the angelic forces in existence lies. An example that is sometimes used to help explain the angelic role in the creation as a whole is the way the body works. Think what happens when you decide to get up from your seat. First of all an act of will is necessary, a decision to move, a central command. And then automatically as if by magic literally hundreds of coordinated separate movements and adjustments and readjustments occur spontaneously and you find yourself on your feet. The body moves as a harmonious whole but the process by which this takes place requires the transmission of hundreds of discrete electrical impulses conveying the instruction to stand up to every one of the different limbs, muscles and faculties concerned, simultaneously, unresistingly obedient to the command to move. As the electrical impulses are to the body, so are the angels to existence as a whole.

The classical definition of the angels is that they are winged creatures created out of light, being neither male nor female, needing no external sustenance, and totally submissive to the will of God. I would add at this point as a kind of caution that the angels and many of the things I have just been talking about belong outside the space\time continuum of our ordinary experience and perception and are therefore, properly speaking beyond the scope of normal language to describe. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, once said that such things are: “What the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard and the heart of man cannot conceive.” But the fact is that we have no other access to knowing about these things except through human language, and God in the Qur’an and the Prophet in his own statements use human language to tell us about realities which exist beyond space\time in the way that best indicates what they truly are.

We must, however, be careful on two counts. We must not imprison the descriptions within our own experience of material existence by taking them too literally but at the same time we must be careful not to etherialise them completely and realise that, when we meet them, the things involved will be recognisable from the description we were given. It is a little like reading a map. You have a clear idea about what you will find when you arrive but the reality is, of course, very different from the lines and symbols on the map.

As far as the angels are concerned Boticelli and Raphael and so many others have conceptualised and sensualised them for all of us almost beyond repair so that the word “angel” immediately summons up an image of a chubby infant or buxom female with white feathered wings, making it really quite difficult for us to have an understanding of what an unveiled angelic presence might truly be. Were it not for a personal experience I once had, I would certainly have no real idea of what an angel is.

Once while I was asleep I became aware of a bright speck of light in the corner of my eye. It stayed there for some time and I remember wondering what it was. Suddenly it came towards me at tremendous speed, increasing in size and brightness all the time until it completely filled my field of vision and I was instantaneously aware of it as a dazzling angelic presence. All I can say about it was that it was huge and winged and intensely beautiful but of such brightness that I could not bear to look at it and I woke up with a shock. From when the speck of light started to approach until the time I awoke was the shortest possible split second and this happened well over twenty years ago but it is still absolutely vivid in my mind. I can only say that this glimpse I was shown enabled me to know without doubt that angels are indeed made of light and that they do indeed have wings.

This general understanding of the nature and role of the angels is greatly amplified by the Qur’an and in tradition so that we end up with a clear picture of the angelic world. I would interpose here that this could not be nor is it intended to be a complete and exhaustive description of the angelic realm. There are undoubtedly hierarchies upon hierarchies of innumerable angelic beings in existence whose splendour and magnificence are truly only known to Him who brought them into being. One of the great blessings of Islam as man’s final guidance is that we are only told of things on a need to know basis. We have been given neither more nor less than the knowledge we need to allow us to successfully navigate the shoals and turbulences of this life and ensure our safe arrival in the Next. Therefore although there are, of course, knowledges without number and rare beings who plumb the depths of some of them, the basic guidance of the Qur’an and the prophetic tradition contain all that is necessary for all human beings until the end of time. With regard to the angels we are told firstly of the four great angels who bestride, as it were, the angelic firmament in respect of mankind: Gabriel, Michael, Azrail and Israfil, peace be upon all of them.

Of all the individual angels we know more about Gabriel than any other and this is because of the specific function which he performs. Gabriel is the angel of revelation. In a general sense this means that he is charged by God with informing mankind about the Divine Reality. Were it not for Gabriel we would know nothing about God or His Laws or the purpose and possibilities of human existence on the earth. He is the means to all knowledge and awareness of God, God’s messenger from Himself to human beings. Specifically, this, of course, meant that Gabriel had an intimate connection with the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, during his life. He transmitted to him the words of God in the form of the Qur’an visiting him regularly with different portions of the revelation as they were needed over a period of more than twenty years. Gabriel also acted as teacher and guide for the Prophet on many other occasions throughout his life. One particular event worth mentioning in this context is the Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet when Gabriel accompanied him first from Makka to Jerusalem and then up through the Seven Heavens to the very limit of form at which Gabriel himself was forced to halt although the Prophet went on beyond into the very Presence of God.

The Archangel Michael’s role in existence is all-encompassing. He is over all natural processes, the angel of creation. Everything that comes into being does so through him and the myriads of angels under him. He is, as it were, the translator of God’s creational commands making sure that they are completely and perfectly carried out. This means, of course, that there is an angelic component, angelic participation, in everything that happens. The Prophet, peace be upon him, made this clear in several specific statements. Every drop of rain that falls has an angel accompanying it. Every blade of grass; every budding leaf; every opening bloom; every flourishing tree. Every beast that crawls and bird that flies. Every stone and stream and valley and hill. There is nothing in existence which is not in reality imbued with angelic presence indicating and declaring its Divine provenance. It is this that has sometimes led people out of ignorance to attribute divinity to the things themselves. It is this, perceived in a heightened state, that poets and painters strive to convey through their words and on their canvasses. William Wordsworth contrives to speak for both:

Ah! then, if mine had been the Painters hand,To express what then I saw; and add the gleam,

The light that never was, on sea or land,

The consecration, and the Poet’s dream.

As Michael is concerned with bringing things into being, Azrail, is concerned with taking them back again. He is the Angel of Death, who takes the spirits at death and returns them to their Lord. At the appointed predetermined time he will visit every single one of us and draw our spirits out from our bodies. If we have affirmed the Divine Unity in our lives and followed God’s guidance as brought to us by His Messengers our spirits will slip from our bodies with no difficulty. But if we have rejected God and His guidance and decided we know better, may God forbid, then the great reluctance of the spirit’s withdrawal from the body is compared to a rusty nail being drawn with great difficulty out of a skein of tangled wool. May God protect us all from such an end.

Perhaps the most momentous role of all is that possessed by Israfil, the Trumpet-blower, the Angel of Annihilation. To him falls the task, when God’s command is finally given, of causing the total annihilation of all existence so that the Face of God alone remains and then of calling it back again for the Final Account. There will be three blasts sounded by Israfil. The first will be a blast of terror announcing the arrival of the Last Day; the second blast will wipe out everything that exists; and the third will call back every human being to face their reckoning. The Last Hour is always imminent. The Qur’an describes it as “hanging heavy in the heavens and earth,” and the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said in reference to Israfil, “How can I give myself to enjoyment when the one with the Trumpet has raised the Trumpet to his mouth and knitted his brow and is poised to blow?”

Along with these four great beings are others of similar magnitude and magnificence. There are the Throne-bearers who are mighty angels charged with the responsiblity of of holding up the Throne of God which is the greatest of all created things. There are eight of them and they are so huge that the distance between the neck and shoulder of one of them is described as being as far as the fastest horse could travel in seven hundred years. Near these are the Karubiyyun, angels near to God whose sole function is to bask in His presence unceasingly glorifying and praising Him. There is Ridwan, chief of the beautiful angels who are the custodians of the Gardens of Paradise and his counterpart Malik, chief of the terrible angels who are the custodians of Hellfire. In connection with these last two there is something I would like to share with you which both confirms the absolute reality of the angelic forms and at the same time shows how people’s vision of other worldly realities is tempered by the context of their own life experience. How the universal becomes particularised within an individual human consciousness

From 1977 to 78 I lived with my family in a village near the town of Enugu in south-eastern Nigeria. While we were there the chief received a visit from one of his brothers, a retired senior police officer from Lagos, who heard we were there and came to see us. He gave me the following account of an experience that had happened to him in his youth which was so extraordinary that I still remember it almost word for word. As a young police constable he had apparently led a pretty riotous life: wine, women and song in very liberal quantities.

One night near dawn after a particularly wild party he was riding home on his police motor-bike very drunk. Suddenly something happened and he found himself lying by the roadside. An open lorry drew up crammed full with people and he just managed to clamber on clinging to the tail-board. After some distance the lorry stopped in a place he did not recognise. Then a strange thing happened. Although he had been the last person on he was somehow also the last person to get off. They had stopped in front of a beautiful gate. A queue formed leading up to it and he was the last in the queue. In the far distance through the gate he could see a wonderful building with a gold bed in it which he knew was his house.

One by one the names of all the people in front of him were called out in beautiful ringing tones and as that happened they were let in through the gate. His summons, however, never came. He was absolutely distraught and shouted out, “What about me! What about me!” The voice said, “Your name is not recorded here.” He said, “It must be. Look there’s my house.” Then he realised that the voice belonged to a huge man who was standing there, so tall that he could not see his head. The man said, “Look for yourself.” A gigantic hand came down, picked him up, and he found himself high in the air, looking down at the pages of an enormous book containing a list of names written in gold. Sure enough his name was no where to be seen. Another thing was that in spite of the man’s vast size and enormous strength he was not frightened in any way but rather comforted and reassured.

The man then said to him, “Your only chance of getting in at this time is to go to my colleague at the other gate down the road.” He went down a long path and eventually found himself at another gate, very different from the first one. I was a desolate, frightening place. There was another gigantic man standing by it who was absolutely terrifying. A harsh voice yelled down at him, “You certainly wouldn’t want to come in here!” He immediately took to his heels and ran from that place as fast as he could go. The next thing he was aware of was a nun looking down at him, screaming hysterically.

What had apparently happened was that he had failed to take a corner at high speed and had gone straight into a tree. He had been taken to hospital, given up as dead, and laid out in the mortuary. Suddenly he had sneezed and sat up nearly scaring to death the nun who was sitting there watching over the newly dead. In his near escape from death he had met first of all Ridwan, the angelic overseer of paradise, and then Malik, the guardian of Hellfire, but had seen the whole event within the framework of the visual imagination of a Nigerian of his time. He explained his vision of his eventual resting place in Paradise by saying that he had subsequently mended his ways and had become a practising Muslim. He was still longing, he said, to reach his true home, the house he had seen in the distance through the gate.

The angels we have been talking about up to now have basically all been cosmic beings of universal dimensions but there are also angels of a much more intimate personal kind. In fact every single individual human being has attendant angels of various sorts. All of us have guardian angels who are with us from birth to death, night and day, wherever we are. Their task is to protect us from harm and, whenever possible, to guide us to the good. This protection can vary from simple reminders, such as suddenly remembering we have forgotten something and many other similar things, which all of us experience on a daily basis, to more spectacular occurrences, such as when we narrowly miss being killed or escape unscathed from serious accidents, which happen to almost everyone at some time in their lives. The angelic guidance comes in the form of inspirations to do something beneficial or prickings of conscience. The difference between it and satanic whisperings is that the latter almost invariably come with force and are concerned with self-gratification and if acted upon leave a feeling of guilt and self-digust but if firmly denied soon go away, whereas the former, the angelic voice, is usually very soft at first and easily blocked out but if followed up gets stronger and stronger and when acted upon leaves you with a feeling of well-being and the certain knowledge you have done the right thing.

Each of us also has recording angels who quite literally keep a record of every moment of our lives. This is this Book we will be presented with on the Day of Resurrection, that record from which nothing whatsoever will be missing and which constitutes the indisputable evidence on which our Reckoning will be based. Thus our ultimate fate in the Next World, although we only find out on the Day of Judgement what it will be, is not the result of some arbitrary decision taken then, but is rather made up of the texture of our lives in this world; we are either condemning or exonerating ourselves minute by minute and day by day and our recording angels are with us, one on each side, writing it all down.

A most important aspect of angelic activity in creation, which I already touched on when speaking of the guardian angels, is the interaction between the angelic and the human worlds. The guardian angels exemplify one way that the angels interact with human beings which is by means of direct inspiration when angelic influence is experienced as a sort of inner prompting to good. However, there are other ways in which the angels can and do directly impinge on human existence. One is by taking on human form.

It is clearly impossible for angels to manifest themselves in their true form in this dimension of existence which simply would not be able to withstand the brightness of their light. Therefore when God wishes angels to appear in this world they appear in human form. One example of this mentioned in the Qur’an is the angels who were sent to warn Lot of the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They first visited Abraham who realised they were angels when they did not eat the food he had prepared. Another example is the angel sent to Mary to tell her she would give birth to Jesus, peace be upon both of them. There were also many occasions in the Prophet’s life when Gabriel appeared to him in human form.

On one famous occasion he also appeared in the presence of a large gathering of the Prophet’s Companions. They were sitting with the Prophet one day when a man came up and sat down right in front of him. The astonishing thing was that, although none of them knew him and therefore he could only be a newly arrived traveller, his clothes were spotlessly white and his hair shining black. He asked the Prophet some questions and then ratified his replies which the Companions also found surprising. When he had gone the Prophet told them he had been Gabriel who had come to teach them.

There are in fact many recorded instances when people, who have found themselves in difficulties of one sort or another, have been helped by the sudden appearance of a person who has shown them a way out and subsequently disappeared without trace. There is no reason at all to doubt that in at least some cases this is the result of angelic intervention in human affairs.

Another way in which angels have a direct effect on human affairs is when angelic energy makes itself felt in this world. This can take various forms. It is known from the Qur’an, for instance, that the Muslims were helped militarily by receiving angelic support during several battles during the life of the Prophet. This appeared as lending an overwhelming violent force to the Muslims’ efforts and as panic and terror in the hearts of their enemies. Examples of this particular kind of angelic reinforcement in a military context are very numerous. One recent occurrence I was told about at first hand happened during the fighting in Afghanistan between the Russians and the Mujahidin. A comparatively weakly held Mujahidin position (about twenty men with machine guns and a couple of mortars) was being attacked by a Russian tank platoon of greatly superior strength.

Suddenly, for no apparent reason, all the tanks halted and their occupants got out and started running away as fast as they could in the opposite direction leaving the perfectly operational tanks they had been driving in Mujahidin hands. One of the Russians was captured and questioned about what had happened. He said that out of the blue all of them were simultaneously paralysed by a blind panic and could think of nothing but getting away as soon as possible.

There is another form of angelic energy people experience which is very different to the previous one though it too is often felt on the battlefield. That is the feeling of calm and tranquillity that sometimes comes over the heart of the believer in the middle of the most tumultuous and stressful situations. This is called in arabic, sakina or stillness. An angelic presence can also often be clearly felt at particular holy places, like the tombs of saints and some places of worship. This can sometimes be very strong, appearing as an almost tangible densification of the atmosphere, the beating of myriad angel wings. In all of these and many other ways the angelic world intersects with ours continually.

This then has been a brief glimpse into the angelic dimensions of existence, a necessarily very inadequate one both because of constraints of time and also my own comparative ignorance and general inability to communicate the matter more effectively. However I hope that despite these limitations I have been able to convey to you some sense of the reality of the angelic world and its interaction with our own and that I have made it clear that there are indeed countless more things in heaven and earth than are generally reckoned with in the narrow confines of the dominant philosophy of scientific materialism. We cannot afford to take the false, so-called scientific position of thinking we are impartial observers of the phenomenal world. That is the literally soul- destroying viewpoint of modern man. The truth is that the universe we inhabit is literally bursting with angels; creation is vibrant with the energy of ceaseless angelic activity. This is not in question. What is in question is us. Are we up to this knowledge? Are we people who are able to fulfill the demands which knowledge of the angels imposes on us. This knowledge is dangerous. It requires us to change. If we have it we can no longer afford to be passive consumers in a society which is all but explicitly dedicated the destruction of people’s spiritual well-being. We have to act on our knowledge and become true inheritors of the mantle of divine guidance which has been passed down to us, determined to see human beings restored to their rightful status as God’s representatives on the earth with all that that entails. If we do not strive for this we will poison and destroy our own hearts. If we do, we will truly live and die in the company of the angels, realising to the full the splendour of what it is to be a human being.