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Meetings with an Archangel by Stephen Mitchell



When the archangel Gabriel appears to a narrator who has written a bestselling book called Against Angels, our whole view of the world is turned on its head. What is the nature of bliss? What games do angels play? What is angelic sex like? Gabriel gives an intensely erotic and moving demonstration of this, leaving us, as he leaves the narrator, breathless. Later, he takes us on a guided tour of the heavens and introduces us to, among other spirits, William Blake. The three chapters of dialogues between Gabriel and the narrator — surprising, poetic, instructive, funny, and improbably real — may be as fascinating to those who can’t stand angels as to those who are enchanted with them. Meetings with the Archangel is primarily about humans, not angels. Its central section is the story of the narrator’s spiritual training, which culminates in his experience of enlightenment. It is an ambitious, searching, and sometimes hilarious story of his effort to get at the heart of our lives and the questions of how we should live, what truth is, what love is, and how we can respond to evil. There are many meetings along the way: with Thomas Aquinas and Spinoza and Rilke and the imagined medieval theologian Benjamin ibn Ezra, with a community of broccoli-smoking Hasidim, with the narrator’s fiercely demanding Jewish Zen Master, with the Book of Job and the Virgin Mary and the mind of Hitler and the heaven of the fundamentalists and the too-exuberant angel Shiriel and Martin Buber and Buber's cat.“Angels can fly,” Chesterton said, “because they take themselves lightly.” Meetings with the Archangel traces its lineage back to the wild, reverent irreverence of Chuang-tzu and the Zen Masters, to the Biblical improvisations of the Midrash, the dialogues of Plato, and the bogus scholarship of Borges. It meets the reader beyond the realms of fiction and nonfiction, at the crossroads of profundity and humor.

by Stephen Mitchell