Yesterday we did ‘research speed dating’ at work. It could have been history’s dullest and shortest lived affair, but actually it was fascinating. We each had 5 minutes, strictly timed, to talk about our research passions.
What I am passionate about as a researcher is exploring the worlds of people who live with spirit in their everyday lives. And I mean literally with spirit, not just with pictures of angels or statues of deities, but with spirit itself, in the form of angels, spirit guides, nature elementals crowding into every nook and cranny of their everyday experiences.
So I talked about this, about how people take spirit guides to work with them, have angels they talk to on a regular basis and communicate with the departed by talking to spirit. Most of my colleagues in this research-speed-dating-challenge talked about sensible, tangible research interests, like poverty, care of the elderly, the built environment.
But I chose to speak about angels and spirit guides.
I wouldn’t have done this 12 months ago through fear of ridicule, but I’ve become more confident in speaking openly about my research interests, and about the methods I use to explore these worlds. I find I’m still met with incredulity though. And someone said afterwards to me, ‘You know, I actually know someone who actually believes in all this stuff!’ And he looked at me as if I was meant to say, ‘Yes, crazy isn’t it!?’
But it isn’t crazy – because these angels and spirit guides make a real difference in the lives of people who live with them. They help them cope better with those material and tangible problems of everyday life, like poverty, getting old or a poor built environment. So should they not also be considered a legitimate part of what we explore as social scientists in order to better understand the modern world?
Another colleague came up at the end and told me about an article she had read about angels, and she sent me the link. It’s by Tim Adams in the Observer, and is based on an interview with Lorna Byrne who has seen angels since she was a young child. Tim Adams points out that 31% of British people believe in angels, and 5% of people claim to have actually seen or spoken to an angel. Except in Nottingham. In Nottingham 17% of people have seen or spoken to an angel. So whatever is going on in Nottingham, it’s clearly the place I should go to next on my research quest to understand the real place of angels in modern society!
Of course we’re not alone, people live with spirit around the world, and that leads me neatly to the announcement that the next posting on this blog will be a guest spot by the wonderful Professor Charles Emmons of Gettysburg College, USA. Charles will be writing about his experiences as an academic researching otherworlds… It’s good stuff, don’t miss it!
I think your fearlessness is inspirational. In fact, not only that it’s totally infectious. Since having met you, well, one way or another, it’s resulted in me finding the confidence to be more open about everything. You are a wonderful example of how we shouldn’t let others influence the way we think or hold us back in our beliefs or interests.
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Thanks for sharing your post. I wonder what the research stat would be if you polled people in Glastonbury about whether or not they have seen/spoken with Angels and goddesses 😉 I think that would make a big impact on the research results! Keep up your fearless research! It’s needed in the world xo
Hi Jennifer – you’re absolutely right that the geography of any study will influence the results. That’s what’s so interesting about moving this sort of research into spiritually ‘unknown’ places… such as Nottingham!
Hello, Sara, I am so interested to find your blog. I am a graduate of the OU (MA, (Educ) 1992) and have been a teacher of yoga and meditation for nearly 40 years. I am the author of two books, “Essential Oils and Meditation,” (2007) and “Hand In Hand With Angels,” (2010), both Polair Publishing, London. I find it encouraging to read about the widening interest in spiritual matters and to find it is the subject of serious research as opposed to an attempt, often seen in the media, to belittle beliefs and ideas. I teach workshops to people showing them how to connect and work with angels and spirit guides. I love your blog about angels in Nottingham.
Hi Kathleen – thanks for your comment. I will take a look at your books, particularly Hand in Hand with Angels which sounds very interesting. You are right that alternative spiritual practices are often belittled in the media, and the same goes for academic research. There is very little serious attempt to actually understand the role that these beliefs play in modern Western society – and that’s where I’m trying to make a difference! I think they’re an important part of our world and should therefore be taken seriously as a topic for research.
If you are interested in one who has spoken with angels, take a look into the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. He held conversations with angels in visions over a period of 25 years. He had verified clairvoyant experiences. Nothing compares with the experience that Swedenborg had, everyone else is just seeing glimpses of that reality that is beyond us.
Sara MacKian says:
March 8, 2013 at 9:26 am (Edit)
Hi Doug – and thank you for your comment. Swedenborg is indeed a really interesting character and I’ve long had a fascination with him, even before I started to do this particular research. In my days when I was a geography lecturer I used to get students to look at Swedenborg as an example of someone who showed that the split between what we understand as ‘science’ and ‘superstition’ is a relatively recent social construction and that a lot of insight can be gained about the world and our place in it by breaking down some of the disciplinary distinctions which were built up around the growth of science. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂