Volume V - Spiritual Liberty
Part III: THE PHENOMENON OF THE SOUL
THE WORLD OF THE ANGELS
A materialistic person cannot easily believe that there are such beings as angels. He says, 'How can there exist beings whom we have never seen, heard, nor known?' And as this is a materialistic age, even the religious person doubts whether there are such beings.
In Hindustani angels are called Deva; they are Devata, immortals, while the other beings are called Rakshasa, that is mortals. In reality all are immortals, but we are what we consider ourselves to be.
Where, in nature, there is a beautiful and peaceful feeling, it is said that a Deva is living there. The soul of a Deva is creative of beauty and peace. The part of the Deva in the scheme of life is loving, forgiving, and serving God and humanity. The Deva is the divine soul. We find traces of the same word Deva in the English words 'divinity' and divine.' In Persian the angel is called Firishta, one who is sent.
The relation of angels to human beings is that of a little child to a grown-up person; they can help human beings as an infant can help its elders.
Some souls remain angels; they are in the highest glory; and others become jinns or human beings according to the strength with which the mechanism is wound, as is the nature of the clock. The first offshoot of the divine Light is the angel; some but not all experience life on all succeeding planes. It is as if a thousand birds had started from Paris for England, and some went as far as Rouen, where they remained, as they liked the place; and enjoying themselves they forgot about England. Some went to Le Havre and stopped there; some crossed the channel and arrived in England. The ones who stayed in Rouen did not have far to go when they returned to Paris, but the ones who reached England had farther to go on the return journey.
In the angelic heaven there is purity, but not perfection, as there is only one perfection and that is God; there cannot be perfection where there is duality. Imperfection is not learned; it is a state of being, it is limitation. Limitation is the condition of life; however great, virtuous, pure, and strong a person may be, still there is imperfection going towards perfection. The entire interest lies in going forward; if we were born perfect there would be no joy in life.
The word angel suggests an, without, and jel, mortality. Angels are souls which, coming out of the consciousness, have reached as far as the world of the angels and remain there. Every angel has a limit to its reach. When it reaches as far as man, then, by the effort of traveling so far and by the activity of man's life, its impulse is exhausted.
Angels do not experience birth and death in the sense we generally understand them; yet there is only one being: God, who is above birth and death; all else is subject to the law of birth and death. The difference between the earth plane and the angelic plane is very great; but there is a time of youth and a time of age in everything, a time when the fruit is unripe and a time when it is ripe; and so it is with the angels, though there is no comparison possible between the life of angels and that of human beings, human life being too limited.
Just as in our life there is a time when we grow taller, broader, stronger, and everything in us increases, and then, when the limit is reached, we do not grow any more and become weaker every day, so it is with the angels. Only, the life of the angels is much longer than man's life. Theirs is a life of illumination and of praise; they are much nearer to the universal, everlasting sound; the universal, eternal light; much nearer to God, than we are. They have luminous bodies, as solid, as concrete, as the light one sees. The speed of a journey in the heavens is also much quicker and cannot be compared with that of the lower world; it is quickest in the heaven of the angels.
The question arises: do angels have a form, a face? This question is very difficult to answer in words. The reason is that every being and object that has a name has a form or a face; but we are accustomed to give a name to something only when we can distinguish a form; and what our eyes cannot see we do not call a form. One might as well ask whether our imaginations have faces. Our imaginations have the faces we give them and by which we distinguish the one from the other; our feelings too have the faces that we give them, and these faces distinguish one feeling from another feeling. However, the face of an angel is not so concrete as this physical form of ours which we call our self, 'I'; but in order to conceive, to picture, the form or the face of an angel, one needs to become an angel oneself. We are accustomed to consider every form like our own; therefore, when we picture angels, fairies, or ghosts, we picture them like ourselves. The fairies of the Chinese have Chinese features, the fairies of the Russians wear Russian hats. The form we imagine covers the angelic form.
Every atom of manifestation can be said to have a soul, because all manifestation has come from the heavenly source, the divine spheres; so every atom comes from that source and cannot exist without that heavenly radiance. Every atom has radiance, even those of dust; we see this because it has light in it. It is its own light which shows it to us, and that light is its soul. Much that seems to us devoid of intelligence is not so in reality; only the intelligence is buried in the heart; it has projected itself and it has been buried by what it has projected; one day, however, it must emerge.
One can see this in the stars and the planets, in lightning and in volcanic eruptions, when that which is captive desires to burst out. But its greatest chance is in human life, and thus spirituality is the only object in the fulfillment of human evolution.
Not only angels, jinns, and human beings, but even animals, birds, insects, trees, and plants all have a spiritual development in their lives. No creature ever born on earth will be deprived entirely of spiritual bliss, however bad or wrong it may seem. It is a matter of time and progress. Human beings all have a moment, a day, when they touch spiritual bliss; thus all other beings have a moment of promise, and that promise is the fulfillment of their life's purpose. There is nothing in this world without a purpose, and though our places in the scheme of life may seem different from one another, yet in the sum total of things we and the lower creation, together with the angels and the jinns, all have our purpose. That purpose is the realization of truth, and this realization comes to us in the form of bliss.
Is there a likeness between the bodies of an angel, a jinn, and a human being? One cannot give a definite picture of the likeness between those bodies, but they all develop towards the image of man. The physical body is the most distinct and clear; the jinn body is less clear, more phantom-like; and the body of an angel is still less distinct, that is to say less distinct to human eyes. Therefore one cannot compare the things of the earth with those of other spheres. If there is any similarity it is only because the whole of creation is a development towards the human image.
There is one and there are many; in manifestation many, and in truth one. There is for instance the rise and fall of a nation, the prosperity and decline of a race, and there is also the birth and death of a world; yet at the same time even the lowest creation is individual. Every animal, beast, or bird, every tree or plant, has its own soul and spirit; if one says that animals have collective souls, then so have human beings. Our body is one yet every organ is separate; and when we go more deeply into this we discover the wonderful phenomena of life, and we shall come to a place where the entire nature of being will unveil itself; then we shall be able to say there is nothing but God.
Every soul has come through the world of the angels, and every soul has the angelic quality and its connection with the world of the angels. Sometimes a very bad person will show a very good trait. We say that it comes through a certain influence, a certain situation. In part it is so, but mostly it is the influence of the angel. Sometimes a very good person does something very bad. This also is the angelic influence.
Muslims say that when a person performs Wudu, the washing before prayers, from every drop of water that falls from his hand an angel is created,. The meaning of this is that by that noble action for which he is preparing himself the angels are created, and to create an angel means to attract an angel, so that he can communicate with it.
The Quran distinguishes five principal angels, of whom Azazil was the chief, the most powerful, the favorite of Allah. The Quran tells that Allah created a form made of earth. The angels were bidden to bring the substance for that form. That form was made into man, Ashraf al-Makhluqat, the Khalif of creation. All the angels were commanded to bow before him, but while all the other angels prostrated themselves, Azazil alone rebelled, saying, 'I have been chief of the angels. I will never bow before this thing made of earth.' It was pride, it was arrogance, it was hatred that made Azazil rebel, and he was degraded and deposed by God and called Shaitan (Satan).
The names of the five most important angels are: Jabril, Israil, Israfil, Azazil, and Azrail. Jabril, who in the Bible is called Gabriel, is the compeller, the spirit that compels men to the way of Allah, to do something for Allah. He came to the prophets, he comes to those who have given up everything, all the desires and the interests of the world, for the sake of God.
Israil comes as inspirer. Some call what he brings inspiration, others call it revelation. This comes also to the pure-hearted musicians and poets.
Israfil is the further revelation, the explanation of the revelation. For instance, if there comes a revelation that a friend is arriving, the further revelation reveals why he is coming. The reason of everything is explained. By communication with these two influences all the metaphysics, all the philosophy that one tries to learn by study, can be acquired through inspiration, without any learning.
Azazil is the spirit that leads towards darkness, towards wrong actions, towards evil. Hatred is a wrong kind of attachment. By his evil action a person attracts this spirit. When a person goes astray he attracts this influence, communion with this spirit. 1
Azrail is the spirit of death. When he comes, then comes the death of everything, the destruction.
1) Azazil is also known as Iblis.