Are Angels Real? Do Miracles Happen?
* This article first appeared in Awareness Magazine, Nov-Dec Issue, 2016. Used with Permission.
As a young neuroscience professor, I had a spiritual awakening—an inner event that inspired me to spend the last thirty years exploring any understanding that might connect the exceedingly different worlds of science and spirituality.
Angels and miracles are two concepts, I found, that were accepted by spiritualists but never by scientists—and never, I must add, by myself. In religious texts and spiritual magazines, I would read descriptions of angels, the winged messengers or guardians sent by a deity and often the performers of miracles. A miracle, I would like to add, is defined by Webster’s as “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.”1
Such claims frustrated me. I couldn’t fit these winged emissaries and their miracles into my scientific box, and so for many years I summarily dismissed these discussions. I felt they simply could not be true.
Recently, however, it occurred to me that I was asking the wrong question. Rather than Is it true? I could be asking this: Is there another way of understanding what people are experiencing when they see or feel an angel visit them and what seems like a miracle occurs? Perhaps by expanding my perspective, I might find some way to understand these experiences that countless people from various times and cultures have claimed to have.
While doing research for my new book Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind,2 I began to explore scientific theories that call for an expanded understanding of human consciousness. These theories propose that the brain itself may not give rise to consciousness, as scientists have long thought, but that our consciousness—the thinking-feeling being that we are—may exist independently of the brain. By this latter view, human consciousness might employ the brain as its organ and might even communicate with a greater consciousness, an infinite consciousness that is believed to be the source of the universe.3-4
In support of this theory, I found considerable research from the field of near-death experience (NDE).5-6 These studies indicate that people can experience cardiac arrest, have no cortical activity, yet remain consciously aware. Such people often speak of visiting another realm and experiencing a being who is filled with light and radiating unconditional love. Sometimes, even, they describe these beings as angels. Then what is an angel? Is it a being of light?
In her book Messages of Hope, Suzanne Giesemann, defines an angel as a being, often “with no form—an energy of a much higher order, an energy of pure consciousness.” Giesemann, a medium who was once a commanding officer in the US Navy, goes on to propose, “It is the light that surrounds them, when at times they do assume a form, which has resulted in this image of wings—so bright that you would want to shield your eyes.” 7
In Infinite Awareness, I recount the experience described by practicing physician Bettina Peyton, whose heart stopped in the operating room during the delivery of her third child.2 She remained lucid during the entire time of her cardiac arrest and wrote that at one point she thought she was going to die. “I see in my inner vision a vast darkness expanding behind me, at the backmost boundary of my mind. My awareness reaches the edge of the precipice and I lean backward, arching over the chasm of darkness below. Very naturally, I let myself fall, gliding downward in a graceful backward arc into the unknown.”2
Peyton experienced a blackness that shimmered and intensified in brilliance, and she sensed a pervasive presence in this light, a pulsating and intelligent power that filled her with deep peace. A voice in this powerful presence then thundered, You must live! and her consciousness funneled into the material reality of the hospital operating room, where she then witnessed the successful efforts of the hospital team to save her and her newborn daughter.
Was the sparkling light, the intelligent, pulsating power that enveloped Peyton with peace an angel? Was Peyton’s coming back to life after a prolonged cardiac arrest a miracle associated with this angel? We will never know. But according to Giesemann’s definition of angels, I think it could be. Peyton did, in fact, seem to be experiencing a higher order of consciousness, which she saw as pure light. And it was through this being’s words, You must live, that Peyton’s consciousness returned to her physical body, and seemingly miraculous events unfolded to bring her back to life.
These descriptions from Peyton and Giesemann resonate with the dictionary definition of an angel, “a benevolent celestial being who acts as an intermediary between the spiritual and earthly realms.”8 Peyton’s other-worldly experience itself also qualifies as a miracle, as the scientific perspective does not include the possibility that consciousness can operate once the heart has stopped and the brain is not functioning.
This is just one anecdote, a skeptic might say. And couldn’t this “experience” be nothing more than the hallucination of a dying brain?
Personally, I think not. Numerous studies have documented the veracity of NDEs in impeccably designed research, conducted in hospitals and with hundreds of cases. 4-5
Here is one more instance, from a series of near-death experiences documented by critical care physician Laurin Bellg and reported in her book, Near Death in the ICU. One of these cases, a woman she calls Naomi, told Bellg the following experience, after coming to the hospital in a coma, in full-blown cardiac arrest. Naomi said, “I saw everything. I saw it all. I saw my mom who died, I saw angels, saw you working on me, all the other doctors, me in the ER.”9
The woman reported realizing at one point that she—her awareness—was above her body, watching everything that happened in the operating room. From this perspective, she saw a growing bright light to one side, which, as she turned her attention to it, became bigger and brighter. “It was coming closer,” she said, “and I wanted it to, because the closer it came, the more intense love I felt.”10
As she described this experience, Naomi wept—and added, “It’s so hard to explain that kind of love. It was very intense and so real.”10
Naomi merged her awareness with that light and experienced communing with angelic beings, including the spirit of her own mother. Naomi wanted to remain in this experience but was told that she couldn’t, that she had more lessons to learn. Then, she found herself back in the hospital and in her own body. Naomi ended her account with the comment that her experience on “the other side” had removed her fear of death.10
Were the bright light and the loving spirit of her mother that Naomi experienced angels? I don’t know. But having read hundreds of documented accounts from trained and seasoned physicians in hospitals around the world, I do believe that these beings of light are real—and are closely involved with the miracle of returning to life after cardiac arrest with a new understanding of life and what is beyond it.
- Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition, Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2004:792.
- Woollacott, M. Infinite Awareness: the Awakening of a Scientific Mind. Lantham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. 2015:110.
- Kelly, E. et al., Irreducible Mind. Lanthan MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2011.
- Batthyany A. Complex Visual Imagery and Cognition During Near-Death Experiences, Journal of Near-Death Studies 2015;34:65–83.
- Van Lommel P, Wees Van R, Meyers V, Elfferich I. Near death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: a prospective study in the Netherlands. Lancet 2001;358:2039–45.
- Parnia S, et al. AWARE-AWAreness during REsucitation- A prospective study. Resuscitation 2014;85:1799–1805.
- Giesemann, S. Messages of Hope, One Mind Books, 2011. Ch. 16.
- Free Dictionary.com.
- Bellg, L. Near Death in the ICU, Appleton, Wisc: Sloan Press, 2016, p. 99.
- Ibid, p. 100-101.
Reminds me why myself and my brother are still alive. We were just teenagers having a chat exactly IN THE MIDDLE of a small single lane width steep backstreet in Guildford, UK. It was a steep winding road, cars had to come up the hill, so it was clear to me that there was no one coming – we could see down and hear any vehicle trying to drive up such a steep road. I felt a friend of my brothers tease me by sneaking up behind me, he pushed me hard on my right shoulder blade. I staggered forward, grabbing my brother to stay upright, unbalancing him a bit. As I started to look around (to tell them off!) I was pushed harder, again in the same place. We both off balanced and my brother now took a step back onto a raised sidewalk. I was not right on the edge of the sidewalk. Before I could look around or regain any change in my position a large speeding van came around a corner DOWN the road, harmlessly brushed my shoulder as it went past and out of sight down the hill. I stood up horrified, looked behind for the body of our friend. There was, and never had been, any actual person there. It seems that my life is full of these events. I think of them as messages, not accidents. I used to believe films like this represented chance, but having had my experience I now know that there is another possible option, the miracle of intervention. An alteration of events as they would have happened if left to the standard rules of our Earth. Did I think of this as a miracle at the time? No, because I was just perplexed, amazed and relieved. No angel or being was seen, only felt.
Thank you for your comments, and your story of your own experience of a “felt” angelic presence. This is amazing, and our current science has no explanation that accords with the scientific materialist point of view. Your story reminds us that there is much more to this existence of ours.
I wish I could share with you some kind of scholastic insight, but I cannot.
What I will say is that while sitting on my back porch watching the fog roll in and the mist pasting the floodlight, I “saw” in the mist, in a fraction of a second, that the droplets of mist, and the cloud of mist had a separate and same existence simultaneously.
I was thinking of nothing, looking for nothing, and way too busy ( prior to this ) to give these things a lot of thought.
For me, then and now, I saw a ‘truth’.
It left me with no doubt. My response to me was just, ‘Hmmm…so that’s the deal.”
Right after that a friend gave me the book, Conversations With God ( I have no idea why ) and after reading that another friend gave me a book on NDE’s ( again, I have no idea why ).
These books lead me to Quantum Physics, which I have very little understanding of, but enjoying reading the field theories.
This was years ago, and I have been reading ever since. My brain wants to go a science route ( for some reason )
though it has never been my strong suit.
That makes it hard for me to deal the the concept of ‘angels’, but I can deal with different dimensions, light energy,
and all of these different sources point to
we are, the mist is, separate, the same,
everything, and nothing simultaneously.
I’m afraid that I cannot claim to ‘get it’,
but I keep reading. Dr. Tom Campbell has some very interesting things to say about consciousness and ‘reality’ that I find somewhat easier to digest.
Ok, I’m going to quit yammering now,
and let whoever might read this get back to life. I very much appreciate your articles and they have lead me to frame my questions to self differently so I thank you, susan
Thank you, Susan! I find your comments about the fog and the fog droplets a beautiful experience and a real understanding of what is sometimes called our unity in diversity. If you read or have read Infinite Awareness, let me know your comments. I would love to hear.
Check out http://guidingqi.com and http://springforestqigong.com and Dr. Christina Donnell’s book Transcendent Dreaming. She had a dream of putting her hand under someone’s head in a car accident to save the person. Then later one of her clients explained how this angel had saved her. The qigong masters work with angels. The human can go into the Emptiness and the angels then emanate from the Emptiness of the human healer –