Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Something of Angels and Phantoms

I know a middle-aged woman, who is retired from a successful banking career and is now a councillor of a London borough and, consistent with all that, is not a taker of illegal drugs or a drunk or, for that matter, frankly, even terribly imaginative. She told me, in some detail, of the occasion when an Angel appeared to her. She even said that it was ten feet tall with feathered wings the colour of dried blood and that she could feel the air from them as it passed her. She did not feel afraid and could not see its face but she believed that it had come to take the soul of a dying person whom she knew (and who was indeed in the act of dying at that moment). That is the most that she could say about it.

I have written about St Mewan church in Cornwall before. It was the country church to which I used to be taken when I was a child. The rector who christened me 'X', outlived his successors 'Y' and 'Z' and (so far as I know), never mentioned anything to corroborate or to deny the experiences of his successors. The old rectory (since sold off) is probably 18th century (maybe older in parts). It was lived in by all the rectors and their families until the 1970s. Y and Z both independently told my father that they had seen a the form of a small child cross the drawing room weeping and disappear through a wall (I am not sure whether the observers heard anything). Now, it sounds like something out of set direction from a Hammer Horror movie. However, these were mature men and, from their vocation, one might assume completely honest. Moreover, they were not related or associated with each other in any way and I am not even sure that they knew each other at all.

In the case of the Angel: either it happened or it did not; accept or reject the account of my sober, honest friend. In the case of the phantom in the rectory, there is compelling evidence to suggest that the events are true. Maybe such phantoms are strong impressions left behind that we can sometimes sense - but even so.

Do I believe in these phenomena? I have to say that I have sensed an atmosphere of evil in a house and I had an undeniable impression (tinged with a sense of ecstasy), of my late sister's reassurance to me, just after she died, that all was well (that is the only way that I can describe it) and I have often wondered about some people (that I have fleetingly met), who seemed, in retrospect, super-human. For example (and the most recent of very few examples): a few days ago I was working away here when I heard a clapping at the front gates so I went up to them and there was a very old couple standing there. The woman was in better shape than the man who was bent over but they both had a laboured shuffling motion. The woman apologised for asking but asked whether I could spare them two Reis (equal to about US$ 1 in Brazilian currency) to buy some food. My Good Lady had gone to the shop around the corner and I did not have any money to hand so I explained this and, with a resigned smile, the woman looked at me and then they both started to shuffle off. I felt an immense pang of pity, shame and guilt (just as Laurence Sterne describes in A Sentimental Journey after he had denied the priest alms) and ran indoors to see whether I could find any shrapnel lying around. I did find a cache of coins and raced out after them. They had gone a little way along the road and appeared surprised and pleased to see me and my small gift and they thanked me, smiled and went on and I returned to the house. As I got to the gates, I turned to look after them but they had completely disappeared and, for some reason, I was not surprised. There are only houses and gardens at the point that I had seen them and I am quite sure that they did not live in any of them and no one mixes visiting people with a little begging from their neighbours. No, they were strangers. They could not possibly have reached the next turning off this road in the time that they had before I reached the house gates so what had happened? I have a feeling that they were not human and, maybe, they were 'Angels' sent to test me. I know that this sounds as though I am off my head but I assure you that it is no more than usual.


  1. Hebrews 13: 1-2

    1) Let brotherly love continue. 2) Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

  2. I think that we are given opportunities along the way to atone and one of these is by giving hospitality to strangers. Purgatory is a wholly fanciful notion for which there is no biblical basis at all.