Angel on My Back

Preteen boys may dog Michael Jackson, but at least he's not saddled with a bunch of dead kids who want to become famous. Schoolteacher turned yoga instructor William Cooper Robert channels a group of "spirit angels" whose 5-year-old ringleader, a dead boy named Little Billy, is bent on becoming the next big thing. Robert asked me to meet him at Denny's, where we had an impromptu (and less than enlightening) channeling session, as well as a lot of frightened stares from the next table.

New Times: So you channel little dead kids.

William Cooper Robert: I call them my spirit guides or my voices or my angels.

NT: And there's more than one?

Robert: Oh, yeah, there are hundreds. Little Billy is excited, and some of the others. And they really like this [interview], because they're really hoping to become famous some day.

NT: The voices?

Robert: Yeah. I prefer to call them angels, rather than spirit guides or voices; is that all right with you?

NT: Sure! So, where do these angels come from?

Robert: I call it the Spirit Guide Universe, or the Spirit World.

NT: You mentioned Little Billy. Who's that?

Robert: He's a little spirit guide. I call him my little guardian angel. He has friends that I've named. Other children. And they want to be famous, too.

NT: What do they plan to do to become famous? Form a boy band?

Robert: Well, no. Mostly they want to be famous through my spiritual students. I talk to my spiritual students about the angels, and I channel them. And they've been getting a lot of attention from my spiritual students, telling them how to heal themselves, how to heal the world. And they think if they become famous, they'll be able to help more people.

NT: Help me out here. What exactly is a spirit angel?

Robert: It's a person from another world who's interested in helping our world. They've been with our world for centuries. They try to help with life, keep you on the straight and narrow, keep your faith in your fellow man. They're kind of excited about this [interview]; they think it might make them famous. I say, "Hey, kids, do you want to be famous?" and they say, "Great, Mr. Robert!" And then I say, "How come you get to be famous and I don't?"

NT: Yeah, that doesn't seem fair. So you're looking for people who can channel Little Billy. Why?

Robert: You know, everyone wants to know that what they believe in, their life's work, has meaning. For a long time, I was being hurt by voices, because they have the power to make you hurt, bad. They can make you throw up, they can give you headaches, they can make you shit in your pants, if you fuck with them.

NT: Heavens. You don't mean angels like the kind with big wings sticking out of their backs?

Robert: To tell you the truth, Little Billy did have wings. When he started talking about getting famous, for some reason some [of the other angels] didn't like it, and started hurting him. They broke his wings off. Now there are different Little Billys. To me there's the one true Little Billy, but some of the young children of the Spirit World say they're Little Billy, too.

NT: They're Little Billy impersonators!

Robert: Yep. But they're not fooling anyone. See, the Spirit World has problems of its own, too.

NT: You mean like tax hikes or recall elections?

Robert: Well, I've never thought about that. I'll ask them about it.

NT: Did Little Billy used to be alive?

Robert: Yeah.

NT: How did he die?

Robert: He's not dead.

NT: Oh. So he was formerly here on Earth?

Robert: Oh, I don't know. They've said to me before, "Bill, we're dead people." But I have a hard time believing that. I don't argue with them about it, I just say, "Okay, that's fine." But to me it's amazing that their world is so much like our world.

NT: So, in the Spirit World, people live in condominiums? They sit in vinyl booths at coffee shops, talking about us?

Robert: I don't know about that. Anything solid in their world would fall, because they're up in the air, in the atmosphere. And a lot of different groups of them hang out in different parks around Phoenix. I've gone to different parks and had a whole set of different voices, really interesting people to have fun with and play with.

NT: Is there some purpose to Little Billy?

Robert: There is for me. He's a little boy to love. And I think he would be good for other people on the physical plane who are not necessarily bipolar or schizophrenic, but who could have voices they call their spirit guides or angels. I feel they'd like to help us live our lives, help our world.

NT: So Little Billy has come here to help us?

Robert: I don't know. He's just one little guy, but he's, uh, I want to ask him about that. Can I have a moment of silence?

NT: Sure!

Robert: (Bows head.) Uh, one of the little girls, who knows Little Billy, I guess, says yeah, they do want to help our world.

NT: Just now, she said this to you?

Robert: Right.

NT: What's her name?

Robert: She's probably one of the Little Billy-Billys. That's what I call the little girls. I haven't given them all names.

NT: So I understand you're looking for people who want to channel and meditate on Little Billy.

Robert: I want to channel my angels, and I want [them] to meet other people, and hopefully that way they could help as many of us as they can.

NT: So you'd be an agent for these angels to hook up with real people.

Robert: Right. I want to ask one of them if that's true. (Bows head.) They said yeah, they want to do that.

NT: If I had a spirit angel, would he help clean my house?

Robert: Well, he'd give you love and care. Make you feel important, try to make you feel happy.

NT: Has Little Billy given you permission to proclaim his name?

Robert: Let me ask him. (Bows head.) Yeah, he said it's okay. You know, what [the angels] want us to do is to pray for them, not just for them to help us. They feel that with all our bacteriological and chemical warfare, they're afraid their world could blow up. I tell you, we need as many people in this as possible, because [the angels] are really powerful.

NT: Can I channel Little Billy, or is he exclusively your own?

Robert: You can maybe channel one of his little friends. Or one of his little enemies.

NT: How?

Robert: What I do is I say, "Bartleby, speak!" You know, like from the Herman Melville story. And then I have these little body movements dictated by their world. And then they're here.

NT: This is all very interesting, and sort of hard to follow. You're talking about a world that's so different from ours.

Robert: Not so different. You know, Little Billy and all my spirit guides can hear you talking to me. If you wanted to talk to them through me, you could.

NT: Okay. Ask them what they want.

Robert: They're like the kids in The Lord of the Flies. They want no parental supervision. They say, "We want drugs and rock 'n' roll!"

NT: You know, it can be really exhausting taking care of kids. You must be pretty tired all the time. Are there any adults in their world?

Robert: Yes. A lot of grown men. I just call them "Dad" or "Sir." Fully grown women live there, too.

NT: It sounds crowded.

Robert: Yeah. I want to say something, and I want the authorities to look into this. I feel like Our Lady of Fatima, warning the kids, but here goes: We exist not in outer space but in absolute emptiness. We're all in one falling universe, falling by our weight in emptiness. And we're all going straight down.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela