Monday, November 7, 2011


Angel Figurines on My Mantle
Anne Boykin, a good friend who lives in Sewanee, Tennessee and who actually influenced us to move to The Mountain there, is very ill and needs surgery on Tuesday. As I'm back in Louisiana, I regret that I won’t be there when the surgery takes place at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. When I thought about her crisis today, I chided myself for not trusting in something that Anne believes in—the guardianship of angels, especially the angels who protect all residents and visitors at Sewanee. The tradition told to every newcomer to The Mountain is that when a person departs the domain of the University of the South for a destination and passes through the gates of Sewanee, the traveler taps the roof of his car and an angel goes with him. Upon return, the person taps the roof of the car and releases the angel. In other words, residents’ bases are covered wherever they go, but the natural habitat of this divine creature is Sewanee on the Cumberland Plateau. When we first arrived at Sewanee, Anne gave us a copy of the angel legend and conveyed to us that she believes in these beings of cosmic awareness.

The angel that will probably protect her on Tuesday is the archangel Raphael who, according to the Zohar, is charged to heal the earth and through him the earth furnishes an abode for man, whom he also heals. In an essay about angels in The Angels, Gail Thomas writes that she senses Raphael's presence everywhere and while speaking to a conference on AIDS, she mentioned to participants that there is an inner healer within each one of us—“a communication within the body, mind, and spirit that knows what is needed and asks for help from sources which remain constantly available within each person…” Thomas probes the issue of the nature of healing, declaring that through the power of Raphael, man or woman can be led to perceive and recognize the healing principle… “which lives in the Christ principle…”

Rudolph Steiner imaged the angels as breathing, the continual taking in and moving out of our breath, and Raphael seems to be connected with the constant flow of healing forces within and without humanity through our breathing! Raphael’s name actually means “God has healed,” and according to Thomas, our experience of this healing is one of finding and losing.

Much of this description of finding and losing is based on the story of Tobit and his son Tobias in the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, in which Tobit, who is blind, is cured by Tobias. Tobias, who has gone out into the world, searches for and obtains fish gall, then returns to his father with the gall on his hands and blows into his father’s eyes, saying, “Take courage father.” He applies the fish gall, and with both hands peels away a filmy skin from the corners of his father’s eyes. Tobit regains his sight, and we are instructed that this account illustrates the story of an angel causing Tobias to find a healing for his father.

Thomas advocates that we are never alone. A companion travels with us who is a healing force in everything and the healing comes from our own adversity, so we shouldn't be afraid of losing—“the child in us begins to learn and in releasing, we find—in losing we win.” Implicit in the story of Toby and Tobias is the idea that the archangel Raphael was the companion of Tobias. Blind Tobit had believed in the efficacy of angels and had told his wife not to worry when his son went out into the world because “going away and coming back, all will be well with our child…a good angel will go with hm. He will have a good journey and come back to us well and happy.” Of course, Tobit also benefited from that good journey and became well and happy.

I pray that both Raphael the Archangel and the Sewanee angel do their work on Tuesday and that Anne will return to The Mountain, having had a good journey, coming back to her many friends and family "well and happy.”

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