Little Angels and The Angels

Posted: 22 January 2019 in Cultural, Haiti, On the Pilgrim's Road, Understanding Others
Tags: , , ,

web3-gaurdian-angel-public-domain.jpgMy grandson surprised me a few weeks back.  We were drawing “spooky” drawing, when he suddenly turned and told me ghosts did not exist.  Well do I agree, so he does not have nightmares?  But then condemn his imagination to sterile literalism?  Is what exists, only what you can see, measure, touch?

It’s not true either.  Beyond sight there’s a world of spirits, unusual presences (which we give names like angels, demons, archangels).  And beyond them – God.  Kids see or sense more than we do.

Dr Pauline Lovelock[1] had done research on primary aged children and what they sensed was out there (doctoral research Exploring Spirituality, Children’s Divine Encounter).  She noted that most children had some experience of things we call angels, fairies, deceased loved ones, or The Divine.  As they grew up they realised that adults dismissed these perceptions and the recognition went with it.

Lovelock had two groups of children, one with some exposure to church, and others of secular background.  Both encountered similar experiences.  They reported happiness, fear, and divine encounter.  Those of faith backgrounds used religious language, those of secular backgrounds used more general language.  What surprised me was her analysis showed over half the children recalled incidents of death, bereavement and loss.  Sarah (aged 11) said she visited her 7 year old brother’s grave every day on the way home without telling her parents knowledge as “they have suffered enough”.  It was her secret.  There were several reported angel sightings.  Sally (aged 6) said “Angels are not fairies, Miss.  No self respecting angel would go out dressed like a fairy.  Angels are real, fairies are not.”

Some found the experience frightening.  Several children were afraid of spirits living in churches “churches are full of dead people hanging about”.  One said he heard God speaking in church, so he’d rather not go into church in case God spoke to him again. (There’s a bit of me that says “give me that church’s address!”).

What are we to make of this?  Is it all fantasies from vibrant young minds?  There is certainly a global experience from all cultural traditions except one – Western secularism – that recognises a world just beyond reach full of all sorts of things.  I have come across this is all the places I have lived and worked (Pakistan, India, Nepal, Haiti, Uganda, and most recently – Morocco).  My great grandfather found it in London[2] two generations back.

So children can pick up the signals we now shut out.  But is it all good?  And the global answer is fairly clear too – certainly not.  In some cultures there is a lot about evil spirits.  I’ve come across a lot in Haiti.  There are Hadeeth in Islam about The Evil Eye, and it was frequently referred to in my recent trip to Morocco.  My mother talked of the mischief El Duende could cause in the house, recalling her own upbringing in Spain.

Oddly, the Bible says a lot less.  Sure there are angels, demons, Satan himself, ghosts, spirits.  But they are not that common, considering how dense with drama the Bible is.  For ghouls and ghosts, try Shakespeare’s Macbeth, not The Acts of the Apostles.  The reason for this is that Christianity makes more stress on personal responsibility for one’s destiny.  It says we are less at the mercy of evil spirits and forces, other than what resides within ourselves.  Conversely, Islam’s sense of The Divine Sovereignty has the believer wishing away personal responsibility into the hands of Allah[3].  The Christian cannot treat lightly divine messengers, or evil spirits.  And when Christians evoke spirits, it will be The Holy Spirit.  But far more important is the daily commitment to bread’n’butter Godliness in the face of daily toil.  Simple as that.

Back to the grandson – for me the article was timely.  Sure – I’ll tell him there really is stuff “out there”.  Real.  Some bad, some good.  But his actions are far less dependant on some tug of war between guardian angels and assailant demons, than between the lad’s free will and the Divine call from God himself.


[1] Pauline Lovelock Awakening children’s spirituality, The Reader, Autumn 2018
[2] Magic In Modern London, Edward Lovett, 1925,, republished 2014.
[3] “Do not place me in charge of my soul even for the blinking of an eye” Hadith quoted in p109, Fortress of the Muslim, Said bin Wahf Al-Qahtani, 2009 7th edition.

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