Joan Wester Anderson on Angel Encounters

People around the world attest that they have had unexplained, personal encounters with beings they believe to be angels. Best-selling author Joan Wester Anderson offers her view

JOAN WESTER ANDERSON is one of the most prolific American authors on the subject of human experiences with angels - a vocation that was inspired by her son's own personal encounter (see page 2). Her many books, including Angels, Miracles, and Heaven on EarthAngels and Wonders: True Stories of Heaven on Earth and An Angel to Watch Over Me True Stories of Children's Encounters with Angels, have been national best-sellers. In this interview, Joan provides her view on the nature of angels, their purpose and relationship with human beings, and some astonishing experiences.

What's your definition of angels? Are they spirit entities unto themselves or are they people who have passed on?

Although it is commonly believed that angels are the spirits of people who have died, this is not true. All Western religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – teach that angels are a separate creation, never to be human, although they can take on the guise of humans when and if God needs them to do so. When humans die, according to these same faiths, they become like angels – that is, spirits without bodies. The proper term for this group is "saint."

What is the relationship between angels and the human race?

They have been given to mankind as messengers (the word "angel" means "messenger" in Hebrew and Greek) and guardians. Some schools of thought believe that each person is given his/her own angel at the time of creation, and that angel stays with his charge until death. In other teachings, angels are not one-on-one, but come in great glorious groups at special times.

Your books present some pretty amazing stories. How common do you think such experiences are?

I believe they are very common. According to Gallup, over 75% of Americans believe in angels – even more than attend church regularly. This says to me that many people are looking back at the coincidences in their lives and are beginning to see something else – perhaps a certain protection or comfort coming at just the right time. It isn't easy to convince people if they haven't had an experience. Hence, my own belief is that these things happen regularly, and many people simply choose not to go public with their stories.

Next page: Why angels help some and not others

One thing that has always bothered me about many angel stories is that angels come to the aid of people in sometimes relatively mundane circumstance, such as a stalled car in a snowstorm. Obviously, there are many people in much graver need of help. Why do you think some people are aided by angels and others are not?

I don't think it has to do at all with one's "worthiness" or "saintliness." I've heard plenty of stories from people who were actually angry at God or estranged from him when an angel came. But I do believe that prayer can change things. People who regularly ask angels for protection, who try to live good lives and help one another, etc., seem to feel confident of angelic help, and perhaps that's why they receive it.

But we must remember that bad things do happen to good people; angels will not always be able to keep such things from happening, because angels do not and cannot interfere with our own free will, or the results of others' free will (most of the time). But they will be with us to comfort us when suffering is inevitable.

Will you relate one of your favorite angel stories -- one you think is compelling?

My son's story is my favorite, of course. He and two friends were traveling across country on a terribly cold night. Their car broke down in a deserted cornfield and they would probably have frozen to death there (some people did that night). But a tow truck driver appeared, hitched them up, took them to safety and when they got out of the car and turned around to pay him, he was gone, and so was his truck.

This is compelling because:

  • there was more than one person seeing the same thing
  • it was a state of emergency and no rescue vehicles were then on the road
  • there were no tracks left in the snow by the truck
  • it was my son!

I have also loved the story of the two pilots in a very small plane flying in fog, and unable to land. A voice came over the speaker and talked them down into a small airport, where they landed safely. They discovered as they got out of the plane that the airport was closed, and no one was on duty. Further, they were so off course that no other airport could have contacted them.

The author of many angels books, Joan has also written Forever Young, the life story of actress Loretta Young, published by Thomas More Publishers in November, 2000. The actress had read the angel series, and requested Anderson as her biographer.