How It Began
Anderson's books were inspired by a personal experience of angelic intervention that occurred in her own life. Alarmed by a feeling of fear for her son Tim and his friend Jim who were driving home from college for Christmas, Joan prayed earnestly for God to help. The radio reported a record wind chill of -80 degrees Fahrenheit, and warned that stepping outside for just a few minutes could be fatal.
Hours later, when Tim finally called, he related that he and Jim had indeed been in peril. Their car had died on a deserted rural road, and they knew they were in imminent danger of death from exposure. They too prayed for divine help. Almost immediately, from out of nowhere, there appeared a man rapping on the car window. "Need a tow?" he asked.
Startled, the boys turned to find a tow truck had somehow materialized behind them without making a sound or showing any approaching headlights. Its driver towed them back to the home of the friend they had recently dropped off, without a word-and without asking them for directions!-and vanished as mysteriously as he had arrived, leaving only the tracks of Tim's car in the snow.
Moved and surprised by Tim and Jim's story, Anderson, a magazine writer, put out a request for other angelic experiences through a women's magazine and was astounded to receive hundreds of responses, many of which appear in her books.
A decade later, Anderson still revels in "the abundance of God" and the company of the angels. Here, she gives candid answers to questions posed by editor Wendy Schuman.
What in your view are angels? What is their essence? Do you have a kind of working definition?
It's almost more important to state what angels are not--they are not the spirits of people who have died. So often we hear someone say, "My baby died, and now she's our little angel in heaven." It's an understandable sentiment, but not accurate. Angels are a separate creation, perhaps the first God ever made. All faiths that accept the existence of angels--and that's all Western religions and many of the Eastern--see them in the same way: spirit beings without bodies, but able to take on a human form-or any form--if God requires it to carry out His plan. Human beings will become like angels after death, spirits according to most religions, but they will be saints, not angels.
Are angels really necessary as intercessors--why can't we communicate directly with God?
We should, can and most of the time do communicate with God directly. To my knowledge, angels are not necessary for anything. But God's creation is abundant, and asking "Why angels?" would be like asking why there are thousands of varieties of trees or stars, when we could get along with so much less. God Himself told us many times that He was sending angels to love and care for us, so He is the one who brought them into our lives. Therefore, even if we don't understand their entire purpose, I vote that we pay attention to them. Can anyone who wants to have an angelic experience or encounter?
There are people who profess being able to bring on an angel experience for themselves or others. I am willing to keep an open mind on this, but I believe that angels are God's servants, not ours, and they do not show up or perform miraculous deeds on our timetables. Since God doesn't change, and the angels we meet in Scripture do not spend hours or days interacting with humans, I have to assume that angels haven't changed either, and do the same things they did way back when. Is it ever OK to pray to or invoke angels? How do you get in touch?
It's not okay to worship angels--worship belongs only to God. This is a hang-up mainly for Protestants who seem to think that when Catholics and Orthodox Jews state that we pray to angels, we're putting them before God--which is simply not true. I think it is obvious that--if we each have a guardian angel or even if we don't, and angels simply come when necessary--we still should get to know this part of creation. People who do say their lives flow much more easily.
What's the most surprising thing you've discovered about angels?
That so many people believe in them. I thought they were really only accepted or noticed by traditional Catholics--when my first book came out, I thought I was going to have to explain angels to people. I was shocked to be invited on to many talk shows on radio, and people called in without any hint of embarrassment to share their own angel stories.
Has your view of angels evolved in any way over the last ten years since your first book on angels was published?
I have learned to pay a great deal more attention to my own angel. I am in touch with him every day. I've also learned to be open to the ideas that other people, especially in alternative faith situations, have about angels. I am a firm Christian, so I take my knowledge about angels from Scripture and tradition. But I have also learned that there are other truths that aren't necessarily written down, and many more evolving even now. I want to be discerning, but I've learned to listen to others' views, and sort out what I think rings true.
How do you get in touch with your angel? Do you know your angel's name?
He really became real to me when I met a person who told me she could sometimes know what a specific angel's name was. I was kind of iffy about this---was this person weird? But I remained open, and she was relieved about that. It must be hard for her or people like her to approach the rest of us--I'm sure they often get rebuffed. She told me that she felt certain that my angel was a huge warrior angel, whose name was Dominic, and he would protect me, especially as I traveled. It just seemed right somehow, the name and his mission. Once I began speaking to him using his name, I just wanted to be closer to him, so I spoke more frequently. Dominic is definitely a friend to me now, and I ask him for all kinds of things--mostly help, inspiration, and patience.
You mentioned that you believe in bad angels or negative entities--can you expand on this a little?
In the Bible, it explains that God created angels, and about one third of them rose up against the others, to attempt to take over heaven. There was a huge fight and the good angels tossed the bad ones out of heaven where they "roam the world, seeking the ruin of souls." I do believe in these negative spirits, I believe they wrought much sorrow and fear in this world, but I try not to concentrate on them too much--why give them publicity when we have so many good things going on?
Where were the angels on Sept. 11?
Rights where they always are, with us. There are stories already circulating about strangers guiding people down the stairs of the WTC buildings, then disappearing.. The question really is: Why didn't the angels step in and save those victims? I don't know why--people have free will, it's out greatest gift, and God will not thwart it. But He can also bring good out of any kind of evil, and although we may not see anything good yet, I am sure it will come.
There was a photo of dark smoke around the World Trade Center that looked like a horned being--do you think destructive angels were involved?
People send me photos all the time--they see angels or devils in them. I don't know if they are authentic or not, and I try to keep away from that. It can so often be a fraud or just a natural occurence.