The word angel (angelos in Greek, malak in Hebrew)
means a person sent or a messenger. It is a name not of nature
but of office, and is applied also to humans in the world who
are ambassadors or representatives. In another sense, the word
denotes a spiritual being employed in occasional offices; and
lastly, men in office as priests or bishops. The angel of the congregation
among the Jews was the chief of the synagogue. This
later usage is also found in Revelation 1 and 2, where theangel
of the church is regularly addressed. Today, the term is now
limited to its principal meaning, and pertains only to the inhabitants
Mark, the apostle of the Gentiles, speaks of the angels as
ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall
be heirs of salvation, in strict keeping with the import of the
term itself. In Mark 1:2, it is applied to John the Baptist: Behold
I send my messenger (i.e., angel) before my face, and the
word is the same (malak) in the corresponding prophecy of
Malachi. In Hebrews 12: 22, 24, we read: Ye have come to an
innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of the just, and
this idea of their great number is sustained by the words of the
Lord, where, for example, he declares that twelve legions of
them were ready upon his demand. In the Revelation of St.
John, a vast idea of their overwhelming number is indicated.
Their song of praise is described as the voice of a great multitude,
and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of
The angels form the armies of heaven, and military terms
are commonly quoted. It is mentioned in the Bible that the
angel host or army will fight Gods cosmic battle. For example,
an angel destroyed Sennacheribs army encamped around Jerusalem.
They appeared to the shepards to announce the birth
of Jesus, and Jesus will lead the armies of God in the final conflict
at the end of time (Revelation 19:14). The idea of angelic
armies would come to the forefront during World War I in the
myth of the Angels of Mons.
As to the nature of angels, it is essentially the same as that
of humans, for not only are understanding and will attributed
to them, but they have been mistaken for humans when they
appear, and seem capable of disobedience (Hebrews 2:7, 16).
The latter possibility is exhibited in its greatest extent by Jude,
who speaks of the angels which kept not their first estate, but
left their own habitation, and upon this passage would later
lay the foundation of the differences and definitions concerning
angels and demons. The former term limited its meaning
only to the obedient ministers of the will of the Almighty, and
the influence of evil angels is concentrated only on the devil or
Satan. These ideas were common to the whole Eastern world,
and were probably derived by the Jewish people from the Assyrians.
The Pharisees charged Jesus with casting out devils by
Beelzebub the prince of the devils. The idea that evil spirits
acted in multitudes under one person appears in Mark 5:9,
where, when he is asked his name, the evil spirit answers: My
name is Legion for we are many.
In the Bible two orders are mentioned in scripture, angels
and archangels; but the latter only occurs twice, namely, in
Jude, where Michael is called an archangel, and in I Thessalonians
4:16, where it is written: the Lord shall descend from
heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with
the trump of God.
Gabriel and Michael are the only angels mentioned by
name. The archangel Michael appeared to Daniel and will lead
his angelic army against the people of God (Revelation 12:7).
The mention of Michael by name occurs five times in scripture,
and always in the character of a chief militant. In Daniel, he is
the champion of the Jewish church against Persia; in the Revelation,
he overcame the dragon; and in Jude he is mentioned
in a personal conflict with the devil about the body of Moses.
He is called by Gabriel, Michael, your prince, meaning the
prince of the Jewish church. Gabriel first appeared as an angel
to give Daniel an interpretation of a dream (Daniel 8:1627)
but earned his lasting fame as the one to announce both the
birth of John the Baptist to Zachariah and the coming birth of
Jesus to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:1138).
Developing Notions about Angels
In the intertestimental period (the centuries just prior to the
Christian era) as the Jewish notion of angelic orders developed,
Michael and Gabriel were named as two of the seven archangels.
The alleged prophecy of Enoch states, Michael, one of
the holy angels who, presiding over human virtue, commands
the nations. The same volume notes that Raphael, presides
over the spirits of men. And other angels who will become integral
to Western angelic and magical lore appear: Uriel, who
Angel of North America Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed.
reigns over clamor and terror; and Gabriel, who reigns over
Paradise, and over the cherubims.
As the Roman Catholic mass evolved, Michael, now a saint,
was invoked as a most glorious and warlike prince, the receiver
of souls, and the vanquisher of evil spirits. His symbol
is a banner hanging on a cross; he is armed and represents victory,
with a dart in one hand and a cross on his forehead. It may
be noted that God himself is called the angel of the Covenant,
because he embodied in his own person the whole power and
representation of the angelic kingdom, as the messenger, not
of separate and temporary commands, but of the whole word
in its fullness.
Dionysius, or St. Denis, the supposed Areopagite (sixth century
C.E.), describes three hierarchies of angels in nine choirs:
Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Principalities,
Powers, Virtues, Angels, and Archangels. These were created by
assembling various biblical passages (such as Exodus 25:1820;
Isaiah 6:23; Ephesians 3:10) and the book of Enoch. Vartan
(or Vertabied), the thirteenth-century Armenian poet and historian,
described them under the same terms, but expressly
stated: these orders differ from one another in situation and
degree of glory, just as there are different ranks among men,
though they are all of one nature.
This description, and all others resembling it (the twelve
heavenly worlds of Plato, and the heaven of the Chinese, for example),
can be understood as landmarks serving to denote the
heights human intelligence has reached at various times in the
attempt to represent the eternal and infinite in precise terms.
Seventeenth-century mystic Jakob Boehme recognized the
whole deep between the stars, as the heaven of one of the
three hierarchies, and placed the other two above it; in the
midst of all which, he says, is the Son of God; no part of either
is farther or nearer to him, yet are the three kingdoms circular
about him. The visions of Emanuel Swedenborg date a century
later, and describe his intimacy with the angelic world. The
angels described to him in great detail a level of spiritual existence
qualitatively different from the visible world of sensation.
Angelic Realms in Jewish Thought
Jewish teachers have developed an elaborate doctrine of a
heavenly hierarchy. Some, such as Bechai and Joshua, teach
that every day ministering angels are created out of the river
Dinor, or fiery stream, and they sing an anthem and cease to
exist; as it is written, they are new every morning. This idea
appears to be a misunderstanding of biblical intentto be renewed
or created in the scriptural sense is to be regenerated.
Thus, to be renewed every morning is to be kept in a regenerate
state; the fiery stream is the baptism by fire or divine love.
In later doctrine, the angelic hierarchies were understood in
correspondence to the ten divine names. Both Christian and
astrological elements eventually could be discerned in the presentation
that reached its height in the teachings of the Kabala.
The following represents the angelic hierarchies answering
to the ten divine names:
1. Jehovah, attributed to God the Father, being the pure
and simple essence of the divinity, flowing through Hajoth
Hakados to the angel Metratton and to the ministering spirit,
Reschith Hajalalim, who guides the primum mobile, and bestows
the gift of being on all. These names are to be understood as
pure essences, or as spheres of angels and blessed spirits, by
whose agency the divine providence extends.
2. Jah, attributed to the person of the Messiah or Logos,
whose power and influence descends through the angel Masleh
into the sphere of the Zodiac. This is the spirit or word that actuated
the chaos and ultimately produced the four elements
and all creatures, by the agency of a spirit named Raziel, who
was the ruler of Adam.
3. Ehjeh, attributed to the Holy Spirit, whose divine light is
received by the angel Sabbathi, and communicated from him
through the sphere of Saturn. It denotes the beginning of the
supernatural generation, and hence of all living souls.
The ancient Jews considered the three superior names to be
those above, to be attributed to the divine essence as personal
or proper names, while the seven noted below denote the measures
(middoth) or attributes that are visible in the works of God.
But modern Jews, in opposition to the tripersonalists, consider
the whole as attributes. The higher three denote the heavens,
and the succeeding ones the seven planets or worlds, to each
of which a presiding angel is assigned.
4. El, strength, power, and light, through which flows grace,
goodness, mercy, piety, and munificence to the angel Zadkiel,
and passing through the sphere of Jupiter, fashions the images
of all bodies, bestowing clemency, benevolence and justice on
5. Elohi, the upholder of the sword and left hand of God.
Its influence penetrates the angel Geburah (or Gamaliel) and
descends through the sphere of Mars. It imparts fortitude in
times of war and affliction.
6. Tsebaoth, the title of God as Lord of hosts. The angel is
Raphael, through whom its mighty power passes into the
sphere of the sun, giving motion, heat, and brightness to it.
7. Elion, the title of God as the highest. The angel is Michael.
The sphere to which he imparts its influence is Mercury,
giving benignity, motion, and intelligence, with elegance and
consonance of speech.
8. Adonai, master or lord, governing the angel Haniel, and
the sphere of Venus.
9. Shaddai. The virtue of this name is conveyed by Cherubim
to the angel Gabriel and influences the sphere of the
moon. It causes increase and decrease, and rules the jinn and
10. Elohim, the source of knowledge, understanding, and
wisdom, received by the angel Jesodoth, and imparted to the
sphere of the Earth.
The division of angels into nine orders or three hierarchies,
as derived from Dionysius Areopagus, was made in the Middle
Ages, which gave the prevalent division much of its symbolism.
With it was held the doctrine of their separate creation; the tradition
of the rebellious hierarchy, headed by Lucifer, was rendered
familiar to society by the epic poetry of John Milton. The
medieval development of angelology was passed on to occultists
and a description of the angelic orders became integral to
magic and in the practices of magical rituals.
Angels and Giants
Another leading belief, not so much interwoven with the
popular theology, was that of angels intercourse with women,
producing the race of giants. The idea derived from Genesis
4:2, in the adoption of which the Christian fathers followed the
opinion of ancient Jewish interpreters, Philo-Judaeus, and Josephus.
A particular account of the circumstances is given in
the book of Enoch, which makes the angelsUriel, Gabriel,
and Michaelthe chief instruments in the subjugation of the
adulterers and their formidable offspring. The classic writers
have perpetuated similar beliefs of the hero race, all of them
born either from the love of the gods for women, or of the preference
shown for a goddess by some mortal man.
The Persian, Jewish, and Muslim accounts of angels all
evince a common origin, and they alike admit a difference of
sex. In the latter, the name of Azazil is given to the hierarchy
nearest the throne of God, to which the Mohammedan Satan
(Eblis or Haris) is supposed to have belonged; also Azreal, the
angel of death, and Asrafil (probably the same as Israfil), the
angel of the resurrection. The examiners, Moukir and Nakir,
are subordinate angels who are armed with whips of iron and
fire, and interrogate recently deceased souls as to their lives.
The parallel belief in the Talmud is an account of seven angels
who beset the paths of death. The Koran also assigns two
angels to every manone to record his good and the other his
evil actions. They are so merciful that if an evil action has been
done, it is not recorded until the man has slept, and if at that
time he repents, they place on the record that God has parEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. Angels
doned him. The Siamese, besides holding the difference of sex,
imagine angels have offspring; but their beliefs concerning the
government of the world and the guardianship of the human
race are similar to those of other nations.
The Christian fathers, for the most part, believed angels
possessed bodies of heavenly substance (Tertullian calls it angelified
flesh), and, if not, they could assume a corporeal presence
at their pleasure. In fact, all the actions recorded of angels
in Scripture imply human bodies and attributes.
Some Theosophists regard angels as related to fairy life,
part of the Devic kingdom (from the Sanskrit term deva,
or divine being). Reports of encounters with visitors from flying
saucers often suggest a secular form of angel life.
Contemporary Interest in Angels
The existence of angels, especially guardian angels, has
been a common theme of popular Western lore. It has been the
subject of numerous Christian texts and been championed in
metaphysical lore by the likes of Flower A. Newhouse, founder
of Christward Ministry in Escondido, California. In the late
1980s a significant revival of interest in angels occurred and a
number of new books and reprints of old books began to appear.
While many of these repeated traditional themes, the majority
flowed out of the New Age movement and concerned
present contact and channeling of messages from angelic beingsa
source more acceptable and familiar to many with a
Christian background than communication with spirits of the
One interesting variation on the current interest in angels
are the writings of artist Leilah Wendell, who has written a series
of books concerning her communications with Azrael, the
angel of death, and who created a popular museum built
around artistic representations of death in New Orleans.
Clayton, Rev. George. Angelology; Agency & Ministry of Holy
Angels. New York, 1851.
Davidson, Gustav. A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen
Angels. New York: Free Press, 1967.
Duke, H. H. The Holy Angels: Their Nature & Employments.
Hodson, Geoffrey. The Kingdom of Faerie. London, 1927.
Miller, C. Leslie. All About Angels: The Other Side of the Spirit
World. Glendale: G/L Regal Books, 1973.
Newhouse, Flower A. Natives of Eternity. Vista, Calif.: The Author,
OKennedy, Rev. R. Book of the Holy Angels. London, 1887.
Swedenborg, Emanuel. Earths in Planets & in Starry Heavens:
Inhabitants, Spirits & Angels. London, 1758.
Wendell, Leilah. The Book of Azrael. New York: Westgate