Thursday, August 24, 2000

For Karen Vaske, angels are on the ascent

She says she can see personal guardians, and a lot of folks believe she can

By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Karen S. Vaske doesn't advertise.

        Still, six nights a week, groups of 8 to 10 pay $30 each to attend her Angel Gatherings and receive a personal angel reading. Ms. Vaske estimates she has described to more than 8,000 people their guardian angels since 1993. The waiting list today is six months.

        “I think most people are searching for anything that they can grasp hope out of,” says Ms. Vaske, 52, of Reading. “I just don't know if people have gotten everything they needed out of traditional religion. Maybe people are just reaching out.”

        The rise in angels' popularity mirrors an increased interest in spirituality. A 1998 Gallup Poll found 82 percent of Americans feel the need to grow spiritually — up from 58 percent in 1994. Belief in angels has jumped from 56 percent in 1978 to 72 percent in 1996, according to the Gallup Poll. Meanwhile, only two in five people attended church or synagogue during a typical week in 1998.

        In the last decade, angels have popped up in collectible stores, on TV and in movies. After angels made the covers of national magazines and headlined talk shows such as Oprah, “it became safe for people to talk about,” says the Rev. Dr. William Webber, an American Baptist pastor and author of A Rustle of Angels.

        “What (some people) had always believed, now they were willing to talk about without seeming to be weird.”

        While most mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches believe in angels, there's significant debate about the validity of angel readings and whether anyone has the ability to see and tap into the guardian angels of others.

        “That's more along the lines of new-age channeling, and we don't really believe that,” says Father Rob Jack, a Catholic priest and theology professor at the Athenaeum of Ohio seminary. The church has always been very wary of private revelations “because they could be coming from things other than God.”

        Ms. Vaske has heard the naysayers.

        “I have been crucified, ostracized and criticized,” says the woman who was raised Roman Catholic. “You get to the point where you can't care anymore. This is a choice (people make) to come here of their own free will.”

        The goal of her lecture “is to bring love back to the planet Earth. To take people away from the hustle, bustle in life, put them in their own little rowboat .... To give them the feeling that although they may have had a bad day, God still loves them and they have an angel watching out for them.”

The reading
               The smell of wisteria flickers from a candle and fills the living room of Ms. Vaske's home. The wallpaper border is chubby-faced cherubs, and angel knick-knacks grace the piano and coffee table.

        Nine women sit in a semi-circle. It's hot, and nervous energy spills out in small talk.

        Ms. Vaske begins.

        The story arrives sometimes in rhythmic paragraphs, sometimes like choppy Ernest Hemingway sentences, punctuated with animated expressions and broad gestures.

        It begins on an operating table in 1977, when she flat-lined and the angels came to visit.

        “The very next thing that happened, I got to watch the blue-white light spirit leaving my physical body, and immediately I could see all the angels that were already there and around my bed,” Ms. Vaske says.

        But the angels said there was a reason for her to go back, and Ms. Vaske spent three weeks in a semi-coma where the angels showed her the “schools of wisdom.” She learned God doesn't see the physical body but energy in the form of “vibrational patterns of color.”

        “Those colors are magnificent,” she says. “That's what I mumbled for three weeks in my coma, "Oh my God, the colors, Oh my God, the colors.'”

        For many years, few would listen to Ms. Vaske's story. Friends scoffed; family members asked her to forget about it.

        But Ms. Vaske says she was able to see things others couldn't; she was able to discern the colors of a person's energy. She could tap into an alpha state — a level of deeper consciousness — and discover a person's guardian angel.

        In 1985, Ms. Vaskey says angels guided her to write a book. The Gigglers is a bright-colored children's book with space travelers, a King Squinkie and a vision of all people filled with sunshine, happiness and laughter.

        Ms. Vaske says she received signs that she was to share her spiritual gifts and by 1993, she began giving angel lectures and personal readings. It grew by word of mouth, becoming so popular that she was giving nine lectures a week. She cut back a year ago because it was too much.

        On this night, she finishes the story of her life and launches into the personal angel readings. Ms. Vaske slumps in a chair, eyes closed. She nods. Or laughs. Or answers unheard questions.

        Then details of each person's guardian angel come like bullets from a machine gun, rapid fire phrases that would twist most tongues.

        “The guardian angel that is with you is a male guardian angel. The male guardian angel and he is going to be able to give you, yes, the wand to be able to instruct the symphony ... The guardian angel said that you would love to be able to be the instructor who is going to be, yes, very, very, very, very much, to be able to ta da dum, ta da dum, ta da dum. The angel is there and he's actually having very much fun,” says Ms. Vaske.

        When she stops, eyes open and Ms. Vaske interprets the images.

        “You create your own symphony at this particular time. You have the orchestra in front of you. The wand is in your hand. Your guardian angel is, yes, very much as if he was in a wonderful tuxedo, long tails, and the guardian angel is very, very handsome and he said, "I will hold your hand to be able to hold the wand so we may be able to tell the orchestra exactly what we want to do.'”

        The 10-minute reading moves Mary Ellen Klenk to tears. She pulls off her glasses and wipes her eyes.

        A few days later, Mrs. Klenk, 55, of Ross Township, says she was surprised the reading was so accurate. Consider that even though music has never really been an interest, she did buy a tape a few months back at a religious seminar. And lately she has found herself turning on a classical station for background music.

        “I think quite a bit (of the readings) could be from body language and age grouping, but somewhere along the line, she's picking up something that she wouldn't know,” says Mrs. Klenk. “Whether she's getting it from auras or angels or pyschics, I have no idea.”

        By the end of the night, most of the women are asking to schedule a second reading, a more advanced session where Ms. Vaske will use her vision to answer deeper questions.

Skeptics respond

               But Father Jack and other religious leaders say people should be cautious when considering an angel reading.

        This type of personal interpretation of angels could be dangerous, he says.

        “You're dealing with people's lives. For them to go to these type of things that may or may not be true and place their trust in that ... it may not be the safest thing for them to be doing.”

        Readings could led to confusion and wrong decisions, he says. That's one of the reasons why the church has been slow to grant authenticity to reports of visions, apparitions and miracles.

        “We know how these things can be manipulated and not used for good,” Father Jack says.

        Another danger, says the Rev. Dr. Webber, is that people may put angels before God.

        Angels offer a non-possessive, non-demanding love; they make nice, warm fuzzy companions, he says. So “instead of turning to God who makes demands on their lives, they stop short with the angels.”

        Scripture is full of references to guardian angels, says the Rev. Dr. Webber, who lives in Riverside, Calif., 40 miles east of Los Angeles.

        “Nowhere in the Scripture do you find people giving angel readings,” he says. “The mainstream Christian view would be that many people who do angel readings are simply manufacturing things for gullible people.”

        According to the Bible, angels exist not to do the bidding of humans, but to be God's messengers. The Bible also says there are good angels and bad ones, says the Rev. Dr. Webber.

        The fallen angels “love to pose as good angels and lead people astray,” he says. “The person who is doing this may very well believe that what they're doing is right.”

Believers emerge

               Marie Ausdenmoore has heard the skeptics.

        “How do we know God's not a scam or Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit?” asks the Miami Heights woman. “That's why I tell people to look at their own faith system and see how this fits.”

        She sees interest in angels as an outgrowth of a more independent society. Just as medical care has changed from doctors telling patients what to do to a team approach, spirituality also has evolved, she says.

        “Instead of going to church and the priest telling you everything, people are starting to question their own beliefs and explore themselves,” says Mrs. Ausdenmoore, 40.

        Her “Everyday Angels” class at Mercy Holistic Health and Wellness Center attracted six or seven people when she started two years ago. Today, more than 20 attend the classes.

        Mrs. Ausdenmoore does not give personal angel readings, but rather holds group and individual angel meditations. She teaches people to quiet other distractions, center themselves and become aware of their angels.

        “They're not just a pretty object to look at in a statue or a picture, but you can actually have a real relationship,” Mrs. Ausdenmoore says. “Angels help balance all the fear that's out there.”

Seeking comfort

               Nancy Forste, 45, of Loveland, hasn't dissected her feelings on angels. She believes something is out there. There are too many premonitions, coincidences and deja vu experiences to be explained otherwise. It could be angels, Mrs. Forste says. She's just not sure.

        “If I say I don't believe in angels, are they not going to touch me?” she asks. “Because if I don't believe in Santa Claus, I'm not going to get a gift.”

        Mrs. Forste came to the angel gathering seeking comfort. Her heart still falters when she catches a glimpse of a tall, dark-haired man. For a second, Mrs. Forste thinks it could be her son, Christopher.

        Then she remembers he died in 1990. He was 19. Full of promise. And her only child.

        “That's the point in your life when you wish it was you and not them. There are days when you're so down you think, "What's the easiest way to join them?' It's hard to even breathe.”

        God applauds Mrs. Forste, says Ms. Vaske during the reading. He knows she has a lot on her plate and juggles many obligations. God is proud of her, Ms. Vaske says.

        “I felt closer there than I have in a long time to anything spiritual,” Mrs. Forste says.

        On the other hand, being charged for the angel reading was a bit unnerving, Mrs. Forste says.

        Her justification: “I'd spent $30 if we had gone to eat, to the movies or to the gambling boat. ... If it's entertainment, and you come away with something good, more power to it.”

        says she a


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