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When you first meet people, you are usually curious about their identity and their intentions. What do they do? Where do they live and what are their hobbies? What kinds of friends and family do they have? In short, what is their history? You can't really begin to form a relationship with someone without first learning about his or her origins. The same thing applies to meeting and getting to know your Guardian Angel.
The word "angel" is quite old. It comes from the Sanskrit (the ancient tongue of India) word angiras, which means a "divine spirit." This term was carried by the sweep of nomadic invasions into Persia where it became the word for "courier" and finally entered Western culture as the Greek word angelos, which means "a messenger." This conforms to the traditional belief that angels are messengers of God. Angels are called "demigods" or "high spirits" in a wide range of cultures, both ancient and modern. Yet everywhere they are also seen as spiritual beings that bring messages from the divine world to man.
The idea of the Guardian Angel has permeated the folk beliefs of countless cultures. Some of the earliest writings we have from the Sumerians, the Egyptians, and the ancient Greeks indicate a strong belief in a personal deity. This "little god" was seen as a personal spirit or power that comes into the world when each person is born to help that person grow and prosper throughout life. According to these texts, this spirit is a part of you and yet it is somehow a higher being whose purpose is to watch over you, to guide you, and to help you in times of need.
It is remarkable how little this concept has changed, even within our Western culture. Virtually all ancient peoples believed in this concept and yet it is not a major part of any particular official doctrine. Instead it is something handed down within secret or mystery traditions. Many simply believe it without knowing why. Yet the certainty that we each have a Guardian Angel is widespread. If you ask people if they believe in Guardian Angels and why, a few will point to their religion, but most will simply say that they just feel that "a power" is watching over them.
Traditional Jewish mystics call angels "shining ones." They believe that each of us has a bit of God, an angel, assigned to protect us. The ramifications of this belief-that a messenger, entity, or spirit that is born with you and watches over you throughout life-are many. For the ancients tell us there is a catch: You must make an effort to open up to your guardian spirit if you want direct help. It is a kind of divine partnership. In ancient times, this was accepted. In our modern world, however, we don't address the issue of how to interface with this personal divine helper.
Older cultures provided worldviews filled with mystery, miracles, and the daily workings of the divine. A thousand years ago, a Saint who had visions was an accepted and respected figure. Omens and divine messages were the stock-in-trade of most folk cultures. In our haste to modernize under the banner of science, we seem to have gone too far in casting out all mystery and magic from our world. Our inner voices have been muffled and are often ignored.
After discussing the concept of a Guardian Angel with hundreds of people over many years, I have discovered many views of this being. I've spoken with Christians, Moslems, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans, and Animists, all of whom have remarkably similar yet divergent views of what a Guardian Angel is and does. The differences, in fact, seem to be merely facets of the same jewel-the Inner Self or Guardian Angel.
The Guardian Angel in Ancient Cultures
The word "religion" comes from the Latin term religo, meaning "to re-link." We tend to think of religions today as institutions, bureaucracies with a clear dogma or codified set of beliefs that people accept. Yet hidden like a jewel within most religions sits this intriguing concept of the Guardian Angel.
From earliest times, ancient cultures have accepted that each person has a personal deity or Guardian Angel. The ancient Greeks called this the "genius." This term has come down to us today to describe someone of great intelligence. After all, who could know more than your Guardian Angel? Ancient Egyptians referred to this being as the Ka and always showed it in carvings as a small being with the body of a bird and the head of a man. How like our traditional Western image of an angel this is! Egyptian texts claimed that the Ka departed from the body only at death. Pyramids and tombs often had a special exit passage for this purpose. The texts make it quite clear, however, that the Ka was not the soul, but rather a special divine being given to each person by the gods to protect the soul.
The Sumerians and other ancient cultures of the Middle East very likely influenced our concept of what an angel looks like. Temples and palaces were adorned with massive images of divine winged beings. The term for a guardian spirit in the ancient Chaldean tongue was Il, a "small god" born with each person to help and act as an inner divine protector throughout life. The term Il later evolved into the Hebrew term El, or God. It is interesting to note that even today, the term appears at the end of each angel's name, as a mark of the divine: Gabri-el, for example.
The Guardian Angel in Judaism
Judaism retains a firm belief in Guardian Angels and is probably one of the main sources for angelic lore in both Christianity and Islam. Rabbinical doctrine states that there are angels assigned to each person, and that each nation and city has a Guardian Angel as well. In one place it even states that "every blade of grass has a Guardian Angel" a statement that reaches far into an animistic past when most believed that everything had a power or spirit dwelling in it.
Angels were extremely important in the birth and growth of Judaism and the Guardian Angel is still often ritually invoked to protect house and family. Although the belief has been almost lost within mainstream Judaism, it is still maintained within smaller orthodox groups.
The Guardian Angel in Christianity
The concept of the Guardian Angel, though not currently central to Christian doctrine, is still very present. Within the Roman Catholic Church there is a Guardian Angel Society. In Catholic schools, children are often taught to pray to their Guardian Angels and even to leave a section of their desks clear for their angels to rest upon! In the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church, October 2 is set aside as the Feast of Archangels, a celebration that honors the Holy Guardian Angel. Numerous devotional images of the Guardian Angel have survived as well. One image that has seeped into popular culture can be found in shopping malls and catalogs as well as churches. This image depicts an androgynous being with long hair and huge wings uplifted, wearing shining robes, often with a star glowing above its head. The figure is often shown guiding children over a dangerous bridge or path. The message is clear: An angel has been sent by God to protect each of us, especially children.
Recently, interest in Guardian Angels has been revived within Catholicism and within Christianity as a whole. This is primarily a grassroots movement, although both the Pope and Billy Graham have responded to the renewed interest by publishing material on Guardian Angels! Those who seek Biblical proof of the Guardian Angel are pointed to Matthew 18:10 by believers. Here it is set forth that God has assigned a divine guardian to each of us, a fascinating concept that may be in the process of reinvigorating many Christian churches as people search for a personal link to the divine.
The Guardian Angel in Islam
Islam is another religion that acknowledges Guardian Angels as direct connections with Allah (God), and as blessings sent by Allah to each of us to help guide us through life. Angels in general are quite common in the Koran. The Koran states: "He [God] sends forth guardians who watch over you and carry away your souls without fail when death overtakes you."
Angels appear throughout the Islamic holy book. Gabriel was the angel who gave the Koran to the prophet Mohammed. There are a number of other angels in Islam, like Ithurial, who helped make Adam and who will preside over the last judgment.
The Guardian Angel in Buddhism and Hinduism
Many people are very surprised to find angels in Asian beliefs! Yet, there they are! In fact, the belief in an inner divine presence that guards and helps us is very common in Eastern religions. In Buddhism there are angelic protectors sent from heaven to protect and guard the faithful. Winged angels are often depicted in Buddhist art, especially on the ceilings of temples. They are shown lifting Buddha to heaven after he died.
Divine angels who cluster about Amitabha Buddha in heaven often are said to deliver inspiration and messages to people still living. Buddhist sects, in fact, teach a very interesting point-the idea that each person has within a seed called the Budhi. This light or energy is a direct connection with the universe and is one of the core tenets of Buddhism. Everyone is a potential Buddha. Everyone is on his/her way to attaining enlightenment. What is needed is a guide and the guide is this guardian spirit who is the real Self. These words are nearly identical to those used in other religions to describe Guardian Angels. The common Buddhist mantra or chant that shows this clearly is: OM MANI PADME HUM. This means: "The jewel (Higher Self) in the center of the lotus (body)"
Hinduism, as different as it is from Western religions, still carries the belief that every person has a Guardian Angel, or Atman. The Atman is often described as a Higher Self, or as a spark of God that guards and guides. Hinduism also teaches that every living thing has a deva or angel to make it grow or help it prosper. The goal of the practice of yoga and of devotion to or worship of many different forms of the one God is to attain this enlightenment. All religious Hindus work to gain complete understanding and union (yoga) with the universe, and it is the Atman (or Guardian Spirit) that urges us on toward this, leading us and showing us the way.
The Guardian Angel in Earth-centered Religions
Other cultures that are more connected with the Earth and its natural cycles, such as Native Americans, aboriginal or tribal groups, Afro-Caribbean sects, and modern Pagans, tend to be Pantheistic and diverse. This means that their traditions are rooted in a belief that the divine is everywhere and has many aspects. In these varied faiths all things are seen as alive and everything has a spirit. Yet as different as these faiths are from traditional Western faiths, they virtually all acknowledge a Guardian Spirit.
The Guardian Spirit or Angel in these cultures is often called "the Ally" or "totem." It is remarkable how similar this concept is to that of the Guardian Angel of established religions. The teaching in such Pagan cultures (from pagani, people of the Earth) often reveals that, although each person has an Ally or Guardian Spirit, each must make an effort to connect with this spirit through some sort of initiation or "vision quest." Once the connection is made, this ally or totem will be a constant psychic companion and will always help advise, protect, and guard the individual. Sometimes this Guardian takes the form of a spirit animal. Once this bond is created, the Guardian can always be called upon in magical ceremonies and rituals to accomplish certain things. This initiation or quest, as we will see, is very much in line with the ritual we will explore later.
The Guardian Angel in Modern Times
Our modern culture is primarily a scientific and, in many ways, a psychological culture. There is a very strong basis for belief in a Guardian Angel in popular psychology, believe it or not! Most people believe they have a conscience, even if they've never thought carefully about it before. We believe that there is a kind of internal compass that indicates to us what is right and what is wrong.
Terms like "conscience" or "intuition" are simply modern names for the Guardian Angel. It is that little voice inside our heads that tells us what is right, that feeling you have when you know you are doing something that is not correct, or that hunch you have that something will or will not work out. These occurrences, several centuries ago, would have been called guidance from the Guardian Angel. The more things change, the more they stay the same!
The person who really brought psychology and religion together and managed to define a modern concept of the Guardian Angel was C. G. Jung. Jung believed that there is a spiritual dimension to the inner mind, and that not all psychological issues can be ascribed to repressed sexuality or childhood trauma, as Freud held. Jung spent most of his life exploring a kind of logical spirituality. His chief contribution to the search for the Guardian Angel is his concept of Self-with a capital "S".
Jung believed that each person undergoes a process of spiritual and psychological growth. He studied the art and poetry of his patients as they were healing and changing. Over years of such study he came up with a theory about spiritual and psychic growth that he called "individuation" a concept that neatly connects with the concept of a Guardian Angel. Individuation is the psychic evolution of a person's inner Self. As each person grows, as the conscious and unconscious mind interface, as experiences and ideas mature, what emerges from the inner mind is a stronger link with a personified higher consciousness that Jung termed the Self. It is this higher consciousness that guides and advises each person, acting as a separate divine entity. This awakened spirit of the inner mind is, simply put, the Guardian Angel.
For Jung, the goal of life and of spiritual growth was this process of individuation, this process of increasing communication with the Self. As a person grows spiritually, as individuation occurs, his or her Self becomes more conscious and eventually becomes more a part of the person's life. It is all a matter of perception: becoming aware of your self is the same as encountering and becoming closer to your Guardian Angel.
This modern view of the Guardian Angel is not really very different from the older religious view. In fact, they are two different views of the same thing. One of the great maxims of the ancient mystics was, "As above, so below."
Excerpted from Your Guardian Angel and You by Denny Sargent Copyright © 2004 by Denny Sargent. Excerpted by permission.
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