Astral Angels of the Living

Astral Angels of the Living A Guardian Angel tends a child, 1893

Astral Angels of the Living A Guardian Angel tends a child, 1893

It is, I am told, “Be an Angel Day,” one of those whimsical hashtag holidays that disfigure the calendar for the cranky and rejoice the hearts of people with bumper stickers that say “Never Drive Faster Than Your Guardian Angel Can Fly.” But it provides an excuse to share a heart-warming story of “angelic” intervention and a Theosophical theory about the origins of guardian angels.

Mr Stead, who published this piece, begins with the original author, Theosophist C.W. Leadbeater, explaining that the dead only rarely intervene in the affairs of the living.

“The more unselfish and helpful a person is, the less likely is he to be found after death lingering in full consciousness on the lower levels of Kamaloka, [the astral plane] from which the earth is most readily accessible…”

Who then, Stead asks, are the guardian angels?

It is rather startling to learn on Mr. Leadbeater’s authority that the people who do the bulk of the guardian angels’ work are none other than the doubles or astral bodies of living people themselves. According to this theory we are all potential guardian angels to somebody else, and at the present moment, who knows, but that the reader of these lines is all unconsciously the praying guardian angel of some one else every time he falls asleep.

Now the man who has not yet developed the link between the astral and physical consciousness is unable to leave his denser body at will, or to recollect most of what happens to him while away from it; but the fact nevertheless remains that he leaves it every time he sleeps, and may be seen by any trained clairvoyant either hovering over it or wandering about at a greater or less distance from it, as the case may be. The entirely undeveloped person floats shapeless and inchoate above his physical body, scarcely less asleep than it is, and he cannot be drawn away from it without causing serious discomfort which would in fact awaken it. As the man evolves, however, his astral body grows more definite and more conscious, and so becomes a fitter vehicle for him; in the case of the majority of intelligent and cultured people the degree of consciousness is already very considerable, and a spiritually developed man is as fully himself in that vehicle as in this denser body.

Most people at this stage are so wrapped up in their own train of thought—usually a continuation of some line taken up in waking hours—that they are like a man in a brown study, so much absorbed as to be practically entirely heedless of all that is going on around them. And in many ways it is well that this is so, for there is much upon the astral plane which might be unnerving and terrifying to one who had not the courage born of full knowledge as to the real nature of all that he would see. Borderland: A Quarterly Review and Index, Volume 4, edited by William Thomas Stead, 1897: p. 66

Stead continues:


Sometimes a man gradually rouses himself out of this condition —wakes up to the world around him, as it were ; but more often he remains in that state until some one who is already active takes him in hand and awakens him. This is, however, not a responsibility to be lightly undertaken.

If, however, the task is undertaken and the risk is faced and a man is enrolled as one of the Band of Helper Spirits while his grosser body is wrapped in slumber, he himself, or rather the astral part of him, is kept going pretty hard. The most part of his work is done for men, but he has also to assist the process of evolution all along the line.

A duty towards these lower kingdoms, elemental as well as animal and vegetable, is distinctly recognised by our Adept leaders, since it is in some cases only through connection with or use by man that their progress takes place.

But naturally by far the largest and most important part of the work is connected with humanity in some way or other. The services rendered are of many and various kinds, but chiefly concerned with man’s spiritual development, such physical interventions as were recounted in the earlier part of this article being exceedingly rare. They do, however, occasion illy take place, and though it is my wish to emphasize rather the possibility of extending mental and moral help to our fellow-men, it will perhaps be well to give [an instance] in which friends personally known to me have rendered assistance to those in sore need of it…


Another instance of intervention of the physical plane which occurred a few months ago makes a very beautiful little story. Among our band of helpers here in Europe are two who were brothers long ago in ancient Egypt, and are still warmly attached to one another. In this present incarnation there is a wide difference in age between them, one being advanced in middle life, while the other is as yet a mere child in the physical body, though an ego of considerable advancement and great promise. Naturally it falls to the lot of the elder to train and guide the younger in the occult work to which they are so heartily devoted, and, as both are fully conscious and active on the astral plane, they spend most of the time during which their grosser bodies are asleep in labouring together, under the direction of their common Master, and giving to both living and dead such help as is within their power.


I will quote the story of the particular incident which I wish to relate from a letter written by the elder of the two helpers immediately after its occurrence, as the description there given is more vivid and picturesque than any account in the third person could possibly be.

“We were going about quite other business, when Cyril suddenly cried

‘What’s that?’ for we heard a terrible scream of pain or fright. In a moment we were on the spot, and found that a boy of about eleven or twelve had fallen over a cliff on to some rocks below, and was very badly hurt. He had broken a leg and an arm, poor fellow, but what was still worse was a dreadful cut in the thigh, from which blood was pouring in a torrent. Cyril cried, ‘Let us help him quick, or he’ll die!’


“In emergencies of this kind one has to think quickly. There were clearly two things to be done; that bleeding must be stopped, and physical help must be procured. I was obliged to materialise either Cyril or myself, for we wanted physical hands at once to tic a bandage, and, besides, it seemed better that the poor boy should see someone standing by him in his trouble. I felt that while undoubtedly he would be more at home with Cyril than with me, I should probably be more readily able to procure help than Cyril would, so the division of labour was obvious. The plan worked capitally. I materialised Cyril instantly (he does not know yet how to do it for himself), and told him to take the boy’s neckerchief and tie it round the thigh, and twist a stick through it. ‘Won’t it hurt him terribly?’ said Cyril; but he did it, and the blood stopped flowing. The injured boy seemed half unconscious, and could scarcely speak, but he looked up at the shining little form bending so anxiously over him, and asked, ‘ Be you an angel, master?’ Cyril smiled so prettily and replied, ‘No, I’m only a boy, but I’ve come to help you’; and then I left him to comfort the sufferer while I rushed off for the boy’s mother, who lived about a mile away.


“The trouble I had to force into that woman’s head the conviction that something was wrong, and that she must go and see about it, you would never believe; but at last she threw down the pan she was cleaning, and said aloud, ‘Well, I don’t know what’s come over me, but I must go and find the boy.’ When she once started I was able to guide her without much difficulty, though all the time I was holding Cyril together by will-power, lest the poor child’s angel should suddenly vanish from before his eyes. You see when you materialise a form you are changing matter from its natural state into another—opposing the cosmic will, as it were and if you take your mind off it for one half-second back it flies into its original condition like a flash of lightning. So I could not give more than half my attention to that woman, but still I got her along somehow, and as soon as she came round the corner of the cliff I let Cyril disappear; but she had seen him, and now that village has one of the best attested stories of angelic intervention on record!


“The accident happened in the early morning, and the same evening I looked in (astrally) upon the family to see how matters were going on. The poor boy’s leg and arm had been set, and the great cut bandaged, and he lay in bed looking very pale and weak, but evidently going to recover in time. The mother had a couple of neighbours in, and was telling them the story; and a curious tale it sounded to one who knew the real facts. She explained, in very many words, how she couldn’t tell what it was, but something came over her all in a minute like, making her feel something had happened to the boy, and she must go out and see after him; how at first she thought it was nonsense, and tried to throw off the feeling, “but it warn’t no use—she just had to go.” She told how she didn’t know what made her go round by that cliff more than any other way, but it just happened so, and as she turned round the comer there she saw him lying propped up against a rock, and kneeling beside him was the “beautifullest child ever she saw, dressed all in white and shining, with rosy cheeks and lovely brown eyes”; and how he smiled at her “so heavenly like,” and then all in a moment he was not there, and at first she was so startled she didn’t know what to think; and then all at once she felt what it was, and fell on her knees and thanked God for sending one of his angels to help her poor boy.

Then she told how when she lifted him to carry “him” home she wanted to take off the handkerchief that was cutting into his poor leg so, but he would not let her, because he said the angel had tied it and said he was not to touch it, and how when she told the doctor this afterwards he explained to her that if she had unfastened it the boy would certainly have died.


“Then she repeated the boy’s part of the tale—how the moment after he fell this lovely little angel came to him (he knew it was an angel because he knew there had been nobody in sight for half a mile round when he was at the top of the cliff just before—only he could not understand why it hadn’t any wings, and why it said it was only a boy)—how it lifted him against the rock and tied up his leg, and then began to talk to him and tell him he need not be frightened, because somebody was gone to fetch mother, and she would be there directly; how it kissed him and tried to make him comfortable, and how its soft, warm, little hand held his all the time, while it told him strange, beautiful stories which he could not clearly remember, but he knew they were very good, because he had almost forgotten he was hurt until he saw mother coming; and how then it assured him he would soon be well again, and smiled and squeezed his hand, and then somehow it was gone.”


An interesting fact afterwards discovered by the investigations of the writer of the letter throws some light upon the reason why the help was rendered by these particular agents and no other. It was found that the two boys had met before and that some thousands of years ago the one who fell from the cliff had been the slave of the other, and had once saved his young master’s life at the risk of his own, and had been liberated in consequence; and now, long afterwards, the master not only repays the debt in kind, but also gives his former slave a high ideal and an inducement to morality of life which will probably change the whole course of his future evolution.

Borderland: A Quarterly Review and Index, Volume 4, edited by William Thomas Stead, 1897: p. 67

No one seems to have asked the obvious question of why the guardian angels did not prevent the boy from going over the cliff in the first place.

This thrilling story originally appeared in Invisible Helpers by C.W. Leadbeater. He adds that the local minister turned the miracle to his own advantage:

Since then there has been quite a religious revival in that village! Their minister has told them that so signal an interposition of divine providence must have been meant as a sign to them, to rebuke scoffers and to prove the truth of holy scripture and of the Christian religion—and nobody seems to see the colossal conceit involved in such an astonishing proposition.

“But the effect on the boy has been undoubtedly good, morally as well as physically; by all accounts he was a careless enough young scamp before, but now he feels ‘his angel’ may be near him at any time and he will never do or say anything rough or coarse or angry, lest it should see or hear. The one great desire of his life is that some day he may see it again, and he knows that when he dies its lovely face will be the first to greet him on the other side.”

Invisible Helpers, C.W. Leadbeater: 1915 pp. 42-49

Given certain accusations made about Leadbeater and his interactions with the young, I’m always a little queasy when he writes about boys with rosy cheeks or how “the elder” is to train and guide the younger in the occult work. That said, his unorthodox theory about guardian angels being the astral bodies of living humans is occasionally found in the work of other Spiritualists, perhaps most notably Joan Grant, who as a child believed she was called in dreams to aid the newly dead soldiers of the Great War.

She wrote:

“I used to find myself on a battlefield, grown-up and usually in the uniform of a Red Cross nurse, although occasionally I was a stretcher-bearer. I knew I had reported for duty and received specific orders; either to explain to a man who had just been killed that he was safely dead, or to encourage him to return to a body that was not due to die yet, although it had been severely wounded.” Far Memory, Joan Grant, 1956

She would wake in the morning, exhausted from her dream labors as a human psychopomp and guardian angel. The unnamed elder “angel” does not mention fatigue on his or “Cyril’s” part; perhaps they were too spiritually developed to tire in their angelic labors.

Other descriptions of astral body helpers?  Be an angel. Send to Chriswoodyard8 AT



Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.


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