Welcoming the Presence: A Review of John Geiger’s “The Angel Effect”

Welcoming the Presence: A Review of John Geiger’s “The Angel Effect” January 8, 2014

Book Review
The Angel Effect 
by John Geiger

I have always loved stories of angels, most of them in my reading shaped by accounts from scripture. John Geiger’s gathering of actual “sensed presence” encounters from people around the world, from many spiritual traditions and from those without such a tradition, is a remarkable collection of personal accounts. They are varied, arise on many occasions and have different meanings to those who experience them.

Geiger is clear bout his intention to understand these “showings” by looking at studies of “sensed presence” through scientific lenses, and also by recalling Christian theologians who spoke to the presence of angels, particularly Aquinas and Evagrius Ponticus, an early desert father. He adds the first-person narratives as examples that both support scientific theories theological schema and contradict them. What I appreciated most about these endeavors of research was his conclusion:

Looking for explanations, I found something else instead: I found humility and I found meaning. (201)

Geiger’s willingness to allow Mystery be whatever it is opens the way to acknowledging, appreciating, and savoring experiences of “sensed presence” as other modes of experiencing the Holy, not only those that are familiar and common in faith communities. The stories are amazing and hope-filled. The author is content to let each story stand as it is told, without any need to attach his own conclusion other than to comment: …this sense of companionship strengthens their lives immeasurably. (201)

As a person whose provenance is the Christian tradition, I read this book with gratitude for the focus, energy and courage it takes to tell such stories in a sometimes cynical and critical world. I am also grateful that Geiger does not press the reader to seek to have an angel encounter for its own sake, but rather invites the reader to be open in senses and mind to the possibilities that “sensed presence” can happen, and to welcome the Presence when it appears.

Readers who ponder the phenomena of angels and wonder what they could possibly mean will find some delight in this book.

Read an excerpt from The Angel Effect at the Patheos Book Club here.

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