Angel Visions: How, What, Why, and Where

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Have you ever seen an angel? Many people have. Perhaps you, too, have seen an angel and didn't know it. 

An angel vision is an experience of seeing the Divine, or that which is usually considered invisible. There is a diverse array of angel visions. Some people actually see Renaissance-type angels, complete with wings, with their eyes open. Other people experience their angels as an interaction with an apparition of a deceased loved one. For others, the angel vision comes during a dream, yet the dream is profound, extra-vivid, and often prophetic. Still others have interactions with Jesus, Mary, a saint, or an avatar.

Angel visions also involve pivotal meetings with helpful strangers, who either intervene or deliver an important message... and then vanish without a trace. And some people's angel visions occur when they see signs from above, including unexplained lights, sparkles, and colors.

As a psychotherapist, I was trained to believe that when people see something that isn't there, this represents a visual hallucination. In fact, I worked clinically with many people diagnosed as schizophrenic who told me that they were seeing things and people that I couldn't see. I can only speculate how many of my patients were actually seeing across the veil of heaven and were having angel visions, which we therapists inaccurately referred to as hallucinations.

Many of the angel vision experiences... happened to children, which should come as no surprise. After all, children are less skeptical and less preoccupied with worldly matters, two factors that I believe hamper adults' angel visions. A 1995 University of Ohio study by Dr. William MacDonald concluded that children were statistically more likely to exhibit clairvoyant and telepathic abilities than were adults.

I remember seeing sparkling lights as a child, and feeling deliciously comforted by their presence. The vision of what I now know to be "angel trails" or the electrical sparks radiated by moving angels, has been continual throughout my life. I always knew that, when I saw the bright flash of light or the Fourth-of-July-like sparkles, this was a happy sign validating my current choices. However, I didn't talk about these incidents until recently. Now that I am "out of the spiritual closet" with respect to my angel visions, I find that thousands of other rational, sane, intelligent adults also see angel trails.

Angels in All Shapes and Sizes

Between 72 and 85 percent of Americans believe in angels, according to various polls. One recent survey found that more than 32 percent of Americans said they have encountered an angel. One third of the people surveyed for The Skeptic magazine's poll said that they've seen a "celestial being". Eighty percent of people believe in miracles, and one third have witnessed miracles, according to a 1999 CBS television poll. So one could conclude that it is normal to believe in angels and miracles, and that seeing an angel is a relatively common experience!

But are all of these people talking about the same thing when they say they believe in "angels"? Everyone seems to have their own definition of what an angel is. To me, an angel is anyone who unselfishly helps us. When I talk about angels, I'm usually referring to someone in the spirit world, such as a deceased loved one, a winged Biblical type of angel, Jesus, or a saint, and, of course, God.

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Yet, angels also appear on Earth... an opaque, real person who lends help or delivers a timely message. The person later disappears as mysteriously as they first appeared. This is the type of angel that Apostle Paul was undoubtedly referencing when he wrote in his Hebrew letters, "Be careful when entertaining strangers, for by so doing, many have entertained angels unaware."

From a purely technical standpoint, the word angel refers to a spiritual, nonphysical being with wings. The angels are messengers sent to us by our Creator to lend help, guidance, support, and protection. These angelic beings are recognized by all major Eastern and Western religions.

Deceased loved ones are usually called "spirit guides" because they have lived lives as human beings. The implication is that, once we have lived as a fallible human, we are a little denser and less enlightened than angels who have not lived a life on Earth. Of course, the spiritual truth is that we all are one with God and the angels. We are all God's perfect creations. However, in this dream of life, it appears that the angels are less Earthbound in their thinking, and therefore are more centered in a pure consciousness of love.

Jesus, Mary, the saints, and other great spiritual teachers are usually called "ascended masters". They stay closely involved with Earth's population, and are accessible to all who call upon them, regardless of one's religious orientation or practices.

Angel Encounters

Because apparition experiences and angel encounters have happened to so many people, considerable research and documentation is being conducted worldwide.

For instance, since 1998, Emma Heathcote, a theologist from Birmingham University in the United Kingdom, has interviewed several hundred people who have encountered angels. Interestingly, those who were in the age range of 36 to 55 had the highest percentage of angel experiences. Heathcote categorized her study group as follows:

  • 26 percent saw a traditional-style angel with wings.

  • 21 percent saw a human form, which appeared and then disappeared.

  • 15 percent felt a force or a presence.

  • 11 percent saw a figure in white.

  • 7 percent smelled an unusual, unexplainable scent.

  • 6 percent were engulfed by light.

  • 6 percent heard a disembodied voice, or heard the voice of the angel or apparition.

  • 4 percent felt or saw that they were enveloped in wings. 

  • Other: 4 percent.

Apparition Experiences

I had an apparition experience, meaning that I saw and talked to my deceased loved one. It happened when I was 17 years old. My Grandma Pearl and Pop-Pop Ben were visiting my parents, my brother, and me, and I was very excited about it. They'd driven a long way from their Bishop, California, home to our house in the town of Escondido, just north of San Diego.

As a budding adolescent, I was in that stage where I preferred to spend more time with my friends than with my family. Pop-Pop must have understood this, because he insisted on driving me to a party that one of my best friends was having on a Saturday night. During the drive, Pop-Pop told me stories of his own teenage days. I felt a renewed closeness to my grandfather that evening as he dropped me off with a hug.

The next day, Pop-Pop and Grandma Pearl left for their drive back home. It had been a wonderful visit for us all. But about 6 p.m., the phone rang. I watched my father's body shudder violently, and he exclaimed, "Oh, no!" Something was terribly wrong. "There's been an accident," he told us. "Grandma Pearl's in the hospital, and Ben's dead." His words about Pop-Pop's death "Ben's dead"still echo in my ears.

My Mom, Dad, and brother seemed to go into a flurry of emotional upset. They were loudly protesting the situation, crying, and hugging one another. To escape my own distress, I went into my darkened bedroom and grabbed my acoustic guitar.

I absentmindedly strummed the strings, feeling terribly guilty that I wasn't crying about my grandfather's death. It wasn't that I didn't love him, but my honest feelings were that my Pop-Pop Ben was peaceful and that there was no need to feel sad.

Just then, a bluish-white light just past the foot of my bed grabbed my attention. There, standing in the middle of the light was my Pop-Pop! When I first saw the first Star Wars movie years later, the scene with Princess Leia projected from C3PO's stored memory reminded me of how my Pop-Pop looked to me. He was at once three-dimensional, and half of his original size, like a four-foot-tall hologram.

Although I don't recall my grandfather moving his lips, he transferred his thoughts to me with the same familiar voice he'd always had. His words, somehow telepathically transmitted into my mind, were, "You are right to feel this way [referring to my peacefulness]. I am fine." My guilt vanished, and I realized that there was no need for grief. Pop-Pop was all right.

Many of the stories on apparition experiences have similar themes, where a deceased loved one tells the living person, "I'm okay. Please don't worry about me."

Paranormal researchers define apparitions by their features, such as their ability to instantly appear and disappear, with no trace of coming or going. Apparitions also pass through solid objects, walls, and closed doors. They also glide or float, rather than walk.

Surveys in Great Britain and the United States show that between 10 and 27 percent of the general population have had an apparition experience, where they saw and interacted with a deceased loved one. According to author, priest, and sociologist Andrew M. Greeley of the General Social Survey at the University of Chicago, nearly two-thirds of widows have had an apparition experience, mostly with their deceased husbands.


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