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The Ascendant Angel: On the Concept of the Guardian Angel, Our Personal Divinity

By: A. W. Finnegan



The metaphor of the angel and the devil upon the shoulders whispering to us with opposing advice is a universal concept that stretches across times and traditions, ancient and present. In a previous article, I covered the concept of the qarīn, in The Evil Twin: On the Concept of the Qarīn, Our Personal Satan (Shaitan). The qarīn is said to be a spiritual companion from the jinn ("not a jinn, but from the jinn"), assigned to each person as a personal devil to tempt and test their character, and bring a personal Hell to those who live out of balance with Divine Law (i.e. the mental, spiritual, and moral laws of human existence).


In this article, we will explore the concept of the Guardian Angel, a spiritual companion from the angelic realm assigned to each person at birth. According to many traditions stretching back to antiquity, this companion urges us to act morally, just, and in accordance with Divine Law, helps us to fulfill our purpose, assists in the unfolding of our Divine plan, helps awaken the Divine within us to reach our highest potential, to achieve mastery over the lower elements and putting the qarīn in check and at our service.


The concept of a Guardian Angel is present across times and traditions, from Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, to Islam, making belief in the Guardian Angel universal. I will briefly give some examples from the many different religions.


In Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion, the Guardian Angel is known by other names, for example, some have called it Arda Fravash:


Also known as Arda Fravash ("Holy Guardian Angels"). Each person is accompanied by a guardian angel (Y26.4, 55.1), which acts as a guide throughout life. They originally patrolled the boundaries of the ramparts of heaven (Bd6.3, Zs5.2), but volunteer to descend to earth to stand by individuals to the end of their days. Ahura Mazda advises Zarathushtra to invoke them for help whenever he finds himself in danger (Yt13.19-20). If not for their guardianship, animals and people could not have continued to exist, because the wicked Druj would have destroyed them all (Yt13.12-13).[1]


According to another site, it is also known as Fravashi:


There are different angels in Zoroastrianism. For example, each person has one guardian angel, called Fravashi. They patronize human beings and other creatures and also manifest God’s energy. The Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, although there is no direct reference to them conveying messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda (“Wise Lord”, God); they initially appeared in an abstract fashion and then later became personalized, associated with diverse aspects of the divine creation.[2]


In an older essay from 1888 written by Eugen Wilhelm, The Cult of the Genii in Ancient Eran, the Fravashi is given an excellent description matching the concept of Guardian Angel:


In these sources the Fravashis are usually called "the Fravashis of pious men" or "the good, holy Fravashis of pious men," "the Fravashis who are strong and powerful for the protection of good men." Who are these Fravashis? Our sources give us conclusive information. First of all it is evident that they were worshipped as A purely spiritual beings. In two passages of the Avesta the Fravashis are conceived as a part of the human soul, the interceding part between soul and body, being nevertheless an independent personality, especially independent from the body In the more recent tradition, the Sadder-Bundehesh, this and other faculties of the soul are mentioned, viz. the power of life conscience soul, consciousness a distinction which, in general, agrees with that in the Avesta. The power of life is closely connected with the body, which falls to annihilation as soon as it is vanishing, and then the other faculties of the soul leave the body; conscience goes straight to heaven, but the soul, consciousness and Fravashi remain together, to account for the actions of the man and to be rewarded or punished The Fravashis, we see, belong to the immortal parts of the soul, whose destiny they share to her ultimate fate on the day of judgment. But the existence of the Fravashis is not entirely included by that of the soul, they have already existed before, from the time when the spiritual world was created, and they are immortal like every creation of the good spirit Ahura-Mazda. They are the divine part of men, which, existing from all eternity, is only for a short time connected with the human body.[3]


In the Hindu faith, the concept of Guardian Angels is comparable to what is termed the Atman and Devas:


The Hindu guardian angel is more like a type of god that combines two different spiritual forces: the devas and the atman.


Devas are deities who help guard people, pray for people, and promote the spiritual growth of people and other living beings like animals and plants. Devas give the living things they watch over spiritual energy, which inspires and motivates the person, animal or plant being cared for to better understand the universe and become one with it. Devas literally mean "shining ones," and they are thought to inhabit the higher astral plane.


The atman is a divine spark inside each person that acts as a higher self to direct people toward higher levels of consciousness. The atman, which represents the part of each person that lives forever despite changing through different reincarnations (like a soul in other religions), urges people to move toward enlightenment and understand the universe and becoming one with it in unity.[4]


In A History of the Jewish Experience, the Guardian Angel is discussed in Judaic terms with influence from Zoroastrianism:


The people have a heavenly representative, a guardian angel. This is a new concept of Zoroastrian origin. Previously the term "malakh," angel, simply meant messenger of God.[5]


It also mentions its opposing companion, a destructive angel, synonymous with the Islamic concept of the qarīn:


According to legend, when the men return home from the synagogue Friday evening, two angels go with them, a good one and a destructive one. If the home is filled with Shabbat spirit, the good angel blesses: "May it be thus next week also." But if there is no Shabbat spirit, the destructive angel says: "May it be likewise next week." Each always has to respond to the other angel against his will, "Amen," so be it. Thus did the rabbis recognize the psychological significance of habit on a person's ability to worship. The family welcomes the Shabbat angels: Shalom Aleikhem, "Peace be with you," may your coming, your blessing, and your going be unto peace. The hymn has become universally popular. In the author's childhood, the family would hold hands and march around the room while singing.[6]


In Catholicism, the Guardian Angel is believed to be present with us, even though not explicitly stated in the Bible, but remained in the “mind of the church, discussed by the early Christian saint, St. Jerome. A Christian encyclopedia from the site New Advent, says the following:


That every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by the Church, and is, consequently, not an article of faith; but it is the "mind of the Church", as St. Jerome expressed it: "how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it." (Comm. in Matt., xviii, lib. II).


This belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch […], and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and Assyrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an Assyrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed." [7]


In a book by Joseph Pohle from 1917, God, the Author of Nature and the Supernatural: A Dogmatic Treatise, the concept of Guardian Angel is discussed in a section called The Angels in their Relation to Men, or the Guardian Angels:


The Catholic Church teaches that every man has a Guardian Angel, whom he should venerate and invoke. This teaching is founded on Sacred Scripture The mission of the Guardian Angels may be briefly described as follows: They ward off dangers from body and soul, they inspire good and salutary thoughts, they convey our prayers to the throne of grace, they assist us in the hour of death and bear the souls of the elect to Heaven.' The Catholic teaching on the subject may be formulated in four theses.[8]


From another passage:


The faith of the early Christians manifested itself unmistakably in the devotion they paid to the Guardian Angels. As early as the fourth century it was customary to erect altars and sanctuaries in their honor. The Feast of the Guardian Angels originated in the eleventh century. "Though of comparatively recent introduction, [it] gives the sanction of the Church's authority to an ancient and cherished belief." [9]


It also mentions the idea that the Guardian Angel is present to all regardless of faith:


Thesis III: Not only Christians and those justified, but heathens and sinners also have each a Guardian Angel


Proof. Suarez refers to this proposition as embodying "the common teaching of theologians and Fathers." Its meaning is that every man has a Guardian Angel in as far as he is a man, not in consequence of Baptism or justification. This angelic guardianship begins at birth. […] Theodoret and Isidore of Sevilla base this belief on Christ's dictum concerning little children, which we have quoted above. Quite a number of the Fathers, it is true, speak of Guardian Angels only in connection with pious Christians; but their utterances must not be interpreted in an exclusive sense; these Fathers merely wish to emphasize that every good Christian enjoys the special protection of a Guardian Angel, which does not exclude that God bestows the some paternal providence also upon the heathen and the sinner.[10]


One of the oldest prayers to a Guardian Angel from the Christian religious tradition goes back to St. Macarius of Egypt, who after experiencing the death of his beloved wife followed by his parents, wrote the following prayer to his Guardian Angel:


Holy angel, to whose care this poor soul and wretched body of mine have been given, do not cast me off because I am a sinner, do not hold aloof from me because I am not clean. Do not yield your place to the Spirit of Evil; guide me by your influence on my mortal body. Take my limp hand and bring me to the path that leads to salvation. Yes, holy angel, God has given you charge of my miserable little soul and body. Forgive every deed of mine that has ever offended you at any time in my life; forgive the sins I have committed today. Protect me during the coming night and keep me safe from the machinations and contrivances of the Enemy, that I may not sin and arouse God’s anger. Intercede for me with the Lord; ask him to make me fear him more and more, and to enable me to give him the service his goodness deserves. Amen.[11]


In the Islamic tradition, the concept of Guardian Angels likewise maintains a presence among the faithful, though it is more complex. In a 2019 article from the site Learn Religions, one article on the concept of a Guardian Angel in the Islamic Tradition, Kiraman Katibin: Muslim Recording Angels In Islam, Two Angels Record People's Deeds for Judgment Day, calls the pair of companions, what appears to be in parallel but apart from the qarīn and the Guardian Angel, as the “Kiraman Katibin”:


The angel on a person's right shoulder writes down the person's good deeds, while the angel on the left shoulder records the person's bad deeds. In his book Shaman, Saiva and Sufi: A Study of the Evolution of Malay Magic, Sir Richard Olof Winstedt writes: "Recorders of [a person’s] good and evil deeds, they are termed the Kiraman Katibin, the Noble Writers; good deeds are written down by the angel on his right, bad by the angel on his left.[12]


Additionally, described apart from the Kiraman Katibin, a set of Guardian Angels called mu’aqqibāt are the closest descriptions of Guardian Angels in the Islamic tradition:


[398] Sa‘īd b. Mansūr, Ibn Jarīr, Ibn al-Mundhir and Ibn Abī latim on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, that he used to recite: ‘he has attendant angels, before him and guardians behind him, watching over him by God’s command.’ [Q.13:11] (lahu mu “aqqibāt min bayn yadayhi wa ruqbā‘ min khalifihi) [13]


From Jane Dammen MacAuliffe’s Encyclopaedia of the Qur’ān it is said of the Kiraman Katibin and the mu’aqqibāt:


There are the kirām kātibīn, as they are identified in q 82:11 (cf. q 43:80), who sit on a human’s shoulders to note down his or her thoughts, and are termed al-hafaza in Q 6:61 or hāfiz in Q 86:4 (cf. Q 82:10). Their role is revealed by the epithets “observer” (raqīb, Q 50:18), “guide” (sā’iq) and “witness” (shāhid, Q 50:21; see witnessing and testifying).


The mu’aqqibāt (q 13:11), “those who follow one upon the other,” establish a continuous relationship between humankind and heaven (see heaven and sky), coming down with divine grace and reascending (‘urūj) with human actions (cf. Q 32:5; 34:2). This term has generated diverse interpretations and some commentators understood it to be a dual of the second verbal form ‘aqqaba, that here replaces the third form ‘āqaba (Tabarī, Tafsīr, xiii, 68). In function, however, these beings watch lovingly over every person: “Alike (to him) of you is he who conceals (his) words and he who speaks them openly, and he who hides himself by night and (who) goes forth by day (see day and night). For his sake there are those who follow one another [mu’aqqibāt, angels, according to Ibn ‘Abbās], before him and behind him, who guard him by God’s commandment” (Q 13:10-11).


The concept of “guardian angels” had already been developed throughout the Semitic world. We find angels in charge of human souls and recording human actions in Enoch’s Book of secrets, as well as in Jubilees (4:6 and 17:5), and in Sabbat, Ta’anit, Hagigah and Berakot, where two angels standing near every human being are mentioned.[14]


The Guardian Angel, just like the qarīn, is said to be assigned to each person at birth, following them throughout the entirety of life. Both the Guardian Angel and the qarīn are sometimes referred to as aspects of our own mind or extended being, but often described as separate external entities apart from our individual sense of self, acting independent of our decision making. This has been reflected by the many testimonies of those who succeeded in attaining what is termed Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA).


Under the term Holy Guardian Angel (HGA), the Guardian Angel was further popularized by occult circles of the Western esoteric traditions, especially through the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, notably through Samuel L. MacGregor Mathers and Aleister Crowley, due to the attention they put on a medieval grimoire to attain Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. This grimoire is known as The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, by Abraham von Worms, thought to be printed in 1458, and the ritual is often referred to as the Abramelin ritual.[15]


Many who have undertaken this ritual have shared their experience attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, describing it as an otherwise external entity, at least their understanding of what the conventional self is. One work that I find worthy of consideration and gives a much deeper insight from those who worked these rituals and others like it to connect with their Guardian Angel is The Holy Guardian Angel: On the Practice and Experience of the Holy Guardian Angel, edited by Michael Cecchetelli, and is a collection of essays by different writers on the subject.[16]I find this a valuable source of collective experience on the Guardian Angel from experienced practitioners. In one essay from the book, Passing Through the Void: The Journey to Unite with Your Holy Guardian Angel, by Frater Ashen Chassen, knowledge and conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel are described as life-changing events:


The experiences undergone by gaining knowledge and conversation with the HGA will undoubtedly stand out as one of the major turning point in the unfolding of your destiny. It will dictate not only the way you perceive magical work but also guide everyday events in ways never considered before. Despite all this, life may encourage you to undergo several rebirths, reconsiderations, and deviations to preconceived plans. Often, we will be lead to break away from the comfort and safety of our beliefs to once again experience raw reality without preconception or judgment to look upon our lives with fresh eyes. This is the law of life for the seeker who continues down his path, refusing to settle into a life of predictability and normalcy.[17]


This reflects what others have described, that often the Guardian Angel challenges its human counterpart with new suggestions to help them to grow and unfold their full potential, their Divine Plan, and of course, that will take work, challenging tasks, doing away with habits or untruths that hinder instead of help, doing things in new ways, optimizing life to be what God and the Divine intended for the individual. Growth can be painful, but in the end, if we truly grow and overcome challenges and hardships, we can become what we were meant to be, we can unfold our Divine Plan, and it is good.


Guardian Angels have also been said to play a part in death and dying, and those who have come close to death, having near-death experiences. These cases describe a guide of some sort that accompanies those who are close to passing on. This seems to be a recurring theme in experiences or visions of the afterlife in the dying and those who had near-death experiences. In a recent book review I did, Book Review: Dealings with the Dead (1861), By Paschal Beverly Randolph,we can recall the story of Cynthia, speaking through Randolph on what she experienced after her death, describing a being or angel who acted as her guide transitioning to the higher worlds.


In an article from the site Learn Religions called Deathbed Visions of Angels about deathbed encounters of angels in near-death experiences and those close to death, the Guardian Angel is mentioned, to assist with the dying process:


Most of the time, the angels whom dying people recognize when they visit are the angels who are closest to them: the guardian angels whom God has assigned to care for them throughout their earthly lives. Guardian angels are constantly present with people from their birth to their death, and people can communicate with them through prayer or meditation, or meet them if their lives are in danger. But many people don't actually become aware of their angelic companions until they meet them during the dying process.


Other angels—especially an angel of death—often are recognized in deathbed visions as well. Lewis and Oliver cite angel researcher Leonard Day's findings in Angels A to Z, writing that a guardian angel "is usually in close proximity to the [dying] person and offers soothing words of consolation" while an angel of death "usually remains at a distance, standing in the corner or behind the first angel." They add that, "…Those who have shared their encounter with this angel describe it as dark, very quiet, and not at all menacing. According to Day, it is the responsibility of the angel of death to summon the departed spirit into the care of the guardian angel so the journey to the ‘other side’ can begin.”[18]


While the guiding of one after death by the Guardian Angel has been a theme described from those dying or those having near-death experiences, other times there have been stories of Guardian Angels who intervene to prevent death. In Denny Sargent’s book Your Guardian Angel and You, the author recalls an experience his wife had when she was young that has been described as an intervention by the Guardian Angel:


When my wife was a teenager, she had an encounter with her Guardian Angel that changed her life. She was about to go to a party with several friends on a rainy night in her hometown. One of her pals had his car and was going to give them all a ride across town. As they approached the car, a winged figure appeared before her with its arms thrust forward, palms up, as if to push her away. In shock, she stopped. "Don't go," the angel said. Then the image faded away.


Her friends turned and yelled at her to hurry up. They obviously had not seen what she had. Thinking her imagination was playing tricks on her, she started walking to the car, until she felt a force pushing her back. She told her friends to go on without her, unable to ignore this strange warning. A deep unexplained sadness filled her as she said good-bye to her friends. They were puzzled and urged her to join them, but finally left without her Ten minutes later, they died in a terrible car wreck.[19]


The author also adds:


For as long as human beings have been recording their thoughts, dreams, and ideas on stone, wood, or paper, there have been accounts of Guardian Angels. Today a fantastic number of people believe in them in a number of very surprising places. Across many different religions, the accepted views of Guardian Angels are remarkably the same. Just as a being of light saved my wife, so too do these beings appear in many times and places to offer advice, help, and healing.[20]


While the idea of a Guardian Angel or guiding companion being there for us in times of danger or at physical death has been described, we might also find its presence with us after birth and in our early years. This might very well be the imaginary friends that accompany us as children. The same author brings up a worthy point for consideration:


You have been taught, subtly, by our culture and society to tune out voices, intuitions, and other phenomena that are not acknowledged as real. As a result, you have lost your sensitivity and your ability to understand communication on a higher spiritual level, though you were born with this ability. This is why children can contact their angels easily and experience higher levels of reality and magical energy. They haven't yet been taught that they can't! This is why Guardian Angels often appear as imaginary playmates until the children are taught that such things are illusion and thus not real.[21]


The Guardian Angel’s purpose seems to be manifold, though always acting in ways to help us reach our highest potential and align us with the Divine. It is said to guide us in the direction we were meant to go, so long as we take time to listen and work with it, while developing ourselves in the process. Identifying the qarīn’s influence, the lower daimon, and having power over it, is another way in which the Guardian Angel is said to empower the individual. Eventually, when the Will of the aspirant and the Guardian Angel are aligned so closely, it is said that a permanent merging takes place, and perhaps this can be comparable to the awakening of the Christos within, the Holy Spirit descending into man, becoming our True Self and reclaiming our Divine Heritage in which we are shaped in the image of God, Creators of our own mini Universe.


I believe we all have a purpose, a reason for being, and a Divine Plan that was entrusted to us to find and carry out. I believe in working with all tools and assistance from the spiritual realms to embrace and unfold our Divine Plan. The spirit world and the supernatural to me is not something I have to believe in, I know it is real. I have experience of it in practice and I experience daily how much more mysterious the Universe truly is. Generally, it is not something that you can isolate or take hold of to prove to other people who don’t believe in it or those not willing to seek these deeper truths for themselves, and those who do live it, are not compelled by a need to prove themselves anyway. It is something that reveals its mysteries to those who answer its calls and devote time to its study and practice. You heed the calls from the forces that call out to you, what you align with at the deepest levels and you will know what your path should be. Our spiritual path includes diverse elements, forces, and forms of life from this dimension and the spirit worlds beyond. I believe that is what the Creator wanted for us.



The overall message the Guardian Angel seems to bring us through the pervasive belief and accounts of personal experience is that we may be far more than just our idea of the physical and mental self. It reminds us that we should by all means seek out our meaning and purpose and connect with our innermost ideals and aspirations, ever strive to attaining our completion in this thing called life and beyond, ever moving towards perfection even if never fully reaching it. The Guardian Angel is a ministering spirit to that Highest Self, the Atman, the Oversoul, and when we align with it, we unfold our True Will with it. We carry out our Divine Plan and purpose. We embrace what we came here to do and ever strive to execute it and move to reach our highest being, “myself, made perfect,” as a microcosm of the macrocosm in the image of the Heavenly Father, man striving to imitate the Grand Architect of the Great Mystery.

References

[1] Angels in Zoroastrianism. Avesta: Zoroastrian Archives. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2023, from http://www.avesta.org/angels.html [2] Angels in Zoroastrianism. The Spiritual Life. (2022, June 26). Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://slife.org/angels-in-zoroastrianism/ [3] Wilhelm , E. (1888, January 1). The Arian Period and its Conditions and the Cult of the Genii in Ancient Eran: Two Essays . Internet Archive. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://archive.org/details/arianperioditsco00wilh [4] Hopler, W. (2019, April 27). Guardian angels in Hinduism. Learn Religions. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.learnreligions.com/guardian-angels-in-hinduism-124346 [5] Trepp, L. (1973). A History of the Jewish Experience: Eternal Faith, Eternal People. Behrman House., pp. 55 [6] Trepp, L. (2001). A History of the Jewish Experience [updated and revised ed.]. Behrman House., pp. 378 [7] Guardian angel. CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Guardian Angels. (n.d.). New Advent. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from: https://web.archive.org/web/20160303201422/http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07049c.htm [8] Pohle, J. (1970, January 1). God, the author of nature and the supernatural, (De Deo Creante et elevante) a dogmatic treatise. Internet Archive. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://archive.org/details/V03GodTheAuthorOfNature/page/n341/mode/2up [9] Ibid. [10] Ibid. [11] Kosloski, P. (2017, October 5). One of the oldest known prayers to a guardian angel is from Egypt. Aleteia. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://aleteia.org/2017/10/05/one-of-the-oldest-known-prayers-to-a-guardian-angel-is-from-egypt/ [12] Hopler, W. (2017, August 11). Kiraman Katibin: Muslim Recording Angels In Islam, Two Angels Record People's Deeds for Judgment Day. Learn Religions. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.learnreligions.com/kiraman-katibin-muslim-recording-angels-124021 [13] Burge, S. (2019). Angels in Islam: Jalal Al-Din al-Suyuti's al-Haba 'ik fi akhbar al-Mala'ik. Routledge., pp. 172 [14] McAuliffe, J. D. (2006). Encyclopaedia of the qur'an (Vol. 6). Brill., pp. 118-119 [15] von Worms, Abraham (1975) [1897]. The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. Translated by S.L. MacGregor Mathers (reprint ed.). Dover Publications. ISBN 0-85030-255-2. OCLC 868276719 [16] Cecchetelli, M. (Ed.) (2013). The Holy Guardian Angel: On the Practice and Experience of the Holy Guardian Angel. Nephilim Press. [17] Frater Ashen Chassen, Passing Through the Void: The Journey to Unite with Your Holy Guardian Angel. From: The Holy Guardian Angel: On the Practice and Experience of the Holy Guardian Angel (Ed. Michael Cecchetelli). Nephilim Press. 2013, pp. 83-141 [18] Hopler, W. (2018, June 9). Deathbed Visions of Angels. Learn Religions. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.learnreligions.com/deathbed-visions-of-angels-123844 [19] Sargent, D. (2004). Your guardian angel and you. Weiser., pp. ix [20] Ibid., pp. x [21] Ibid., pp. 25

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