Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Garrigou-Lagrange: On Angels

Angelic nature, knowledge, will, merit and demerit from Reality: A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange 

Chapter 23: Angelic Nature And Knowledge

1. Nature Of Angels

St. Thomas [596] teaches clearly that the angels are creatures purely spiritual, subsistent forms without any matter. Scotus says they are composed of form and incorporeal matter, without quantity, because, being creatures, they must have an element of potentiality. The Thomistic reply runs thus: This potential element is first the angelic essence, really distinct, as in all creatures, from existence. Secondly, the real distinction between person and existence, between quod est and existence. Thirdly, real distinction of substance from faculties, and of faculties from acts. All these distinctions are explicitly formulated by St. Thomas himself. [597].

From their pure spirituality St. Thomas concludes that there cannot be two angels of the same species, because the only principle by which a substantial form can be individualized is matter, matter capable of this quantity rather than any other. Thus, to illustrate, two drops of water, perfectly similar, are by their matter and quantity two distinct individuals. But angels have no matter. [598].

Scotus, on the contrary, since he admits a certain kind of matter in the angels, maintains also that there can be many angels of one and the same species. Suarez, in his eclecticism, admits this conclusion of Scotus, although he sides with St. Thomas in maintaining that the angels are purely spiritual and immaterial beings. Thomists reply: if the angels are purely spiritual, you can find in them no principle of individuation, no principle capable of multiplying within one and the same species.

Form unreceived in matter, they say with St. Thomas, is simply unique. Whiteness, for example, if conceived as unreceived in this or that white thing, would be one and unique. If you deny this, then you simultaneously deny the principle which demonstrates the unicity of God, the principle, namely, which St. Thomas thus formulates: [599] Existence unreceived is necessarily subsistent and unique.

2. Angelic Knowledge

There are three orders of knowledge: human, angelic, divine. The object of knowledge in general is intelligible reality. The proper object of human intelligence is the intelligible being of sense objects, because the human intellect has as its proportioned object the lowest order of intelligible reality, the shadowy reality of the sense world. By opposition, then, the proper object of angelic intelligence is the intelligible reality of spiritual creatures. Hence, the proper intelligible object of each particular angel is that angel's own essence, just as God's proper intelligible object is His own divine essence. [600].

This position granted, let us see its consequences. The human idea, by which man knows, is an abstract and universal idea, drawn forth, by the intellect agent, from particular sense objects. But the angelic idea, not being drawn from external sense objects, is a natural endowment of the angelic intellect, infused into it by God at the moment of creation. Hence the angelic idea is at once universal and concrete. The angel's infused idea of the lion, say, represents not only the nature of the lion, but all individual lions that either actually exist or have in the past been objects of the angel's intellect. Angelic ideas are thus participations in God's own creative ideas. Infused ideas, then, which Plato and Descartes falsely ascribed to men, are, on the contrary, an angelic characteristic.

Thus these angelic ideas, at once universal and concrete, represent whole regions of intelligible reality, and each angel has his own distinctive suprasensible panorama. The higher the angel, the stronger is his intelligence and the fewer are his ideas, since they are more rich and universal. Thus, with ever fewer ideas, the higher angels command immense regions of reality, which the lower angels cannot attain with such eminent simplicity. [601] A human parallel is the sage, who, in a few simple principles, grasps an entire branch of knowledge. The stronger is the created intellect, to say it briefly, the more it approaches the preeminent simplicity of the divine intellect.

A further consequence. The nature of his ideas, at once universal and concrete, make the angel's knowledge intuitive, not in any way successive and discursive. He sees at a glance the particular in the universal, the conclusion in the principle, the means in the end. [602].

For the same reason his act of judging does not proceed by comparing and separating different ideas. [603] By his purely intuitive apprehension of the essence of a thing, he sees at once all characteristics of that essence, for example, he simultaneously sees all man's human and created characteristics, for instance, that man's essence is not man's existence, then man's existence is necessarily given and preserved by divine causality. [604].

Why this immense distance between angel and man? Because, seeing intuitively, the angel sees without medium, as in clearest midday, an immensely higher object, sees the intelligible world of spirits, whereas man's intellect, the most feeble of all intellects, having as object the lowest order of intelligibility, must be satisfied with twilight glances into the faint mirror of the sense world.

A further consequence is that the angel's intuitive vision is also infallible. But while he can make no mistake in his natural knowledge, he can deceive himself in the supernatural order, on the question, for example, whether this or that individual man is in the state of grace. Likewise he may deceive himself in forecasting the contingent future, above all in attempting to know the future free acts of men, or the immanent secrets of man's heart, secrets which are in no way necessarily linked with the nature of our soul or with external physical realities. The secrets of the heart are not fragments of the material world, they do not result from the interplay of physical forces. [605].

Contrary to this view, Scotus holds that the angel, though he has no sense faculties, can still receive ideas from sense objects. This view arises from his failure to distinguish intellects specifically by their proper and proportioned object. Thus he goes on to say that, had God so willed, the unmediated vision of the divine essence would be natural to both angels and men. Thus the distinction between uncreated intelligence and created intelligence is, for Scotus, a distinction not necessary, but contingent. A fortiori, then, he denies any necessary distinction between the proper object of the human intellect and that of the angelic intellect.

Scotus further denies that the ideas by which higher angels know are less numerous and more universal than those of lower angels. Perfection of knowledge, he says, derives less from the universality of ideas than from their clearness and brightness. Here Thomists distinguish. In the empiric order, yes, clearness does not depend on the universality of ideas. But in the order of perfection, in the order of higher principles, themselves concatenated with the supreme principle—in this order doctrinal clearness most certainly depends on the universality of its ideas.

Scotus holds also that the angel can know discursively, can engage in reasoning, a view which notably depreciates the perfection of the pure spirit. On the other hand, he holds that the angel can know, naturally and with certitude, the secrets of man's heart, though God, he adds, refuses this knowledge to the demons.

Suarez, again eclectically, admits with St. Thomas that the angelic ideas are innate, but holds, with Scotus, that the angel can use reasoning, and can be mistaken regarding the characteristics of the object he knows.

Chapter 24: The Angelic Will

St. Thomas seeks to understand the angelic will by the object to which that will is specifically proportioned. Scotus insists rather on the subjective activity of that will.

Studying the object of the angelic will, St. Thomas concludes that certain acts of that will, though voluntary and spontaneous, are nevertheless not free, but necessary, by reason of an object in which the angelic intelligence sees no imperfection, but perfect happiness. As regards angelic freedom of will, he holds that angelic choice, like human choice, is always determined by the last practical act of judgment, but that the act of choice by accepting that judgment makes it to be the last. Scotus, on the contrary, holds that freedom belongs essentially to all voluntary acts, and that free choice is not always determined by the last practical act of judgment. On this point Suarez follows Scotus. Against them Thomists invoke the following principle: "If nothing can be willed unless it be foreknown as good, then nothing can be here and now preferred unless it be here and now foreknown as better." [606] In other words, there can be no will movement, however free, without intellectual guidance, otherwise we confound liberty with haphazard, with impulse, which acts necessarily and without reflection. Here lies the source of the chief doctrinal divergences concerning the angelic will.

St. Thomas teaches that the objects which the angel loves, not freely, but necessarily, at least necessarily as regards specification, are, first, his own happiness, second, himself, third, God as author of his nature, the reason being that in these objects he can find nothing repulsive. [607] Hence it is more probable that the angel cannot, at least not directly and immediately, sin against the natural law, which he sees intuitively as written into his own essence. [608] Yet the demons, in sinning directly against the supernatural law, sin indirectly against the natural law which prescribes that we obey God in everything He may command.

Further. If the angel sins, his sin is necessarily mortal, because, seeing end and means with one and the same intuitive glance, he cannot be disordered venially, i. e.: in regard to means, without previous mortal disorder in regard to his last end.

Again, the sin of the angel is irrevocable, and hence irremissible. In other words, since the angel chooses with perfect knowledge after consideration, not abstract, discursive, successive, but intuitive and simultaneous, of all that is involved in his choice, he can no longer see any reason for reversal of his choice. Hence arises the demon's fixed obstinacy in evil. Nothing was unforeseen in his choice. If we were to say to him: "You did not foresee this," he would answer, "Surely I foresaw it." With fullest knowledge he refused obedience, and refuses it forever in unending pride. Similarly the choice of the good angel is irrevocable and participates in the immutability of God's free act of choice. [609] St. Thomas cites approvingly the common expression: Before choice the free will of the angel is flexible, but not after choice. [610].

Scotus admits none of these doctrines. No act of the angelic will is necessary, not even the angel's natural love of his life or of the author of life. The will can sin even when there is no error or lack of consideration in the intellect, because free choice is not always conformed to the last practical judgment. The first sin of the demon is not of itself irrevocable and irremissible. The demons, he says, committed many mortal sins, before they became obstinate in evil, and could have repented after each of those sins. And their obstinacy itself he explains extrinsically, as due to God's decree that, after a certain number of mortal sins, He would no longer give them the grace of conversion. On these points Suarez follows Scotus, since he too holds that free choice is not always conformed to the last practical judgment. But he does not explain how free choice can arise without intellectual direction. Thomists repeat: Nothing can be willed unless here and now foreknown as better.

Contrast shows clearly that St. Thomas has a higher conception of the specific distinction between angelic intelligence and human intelligence than have Scotus and Suarez. Faculties, habits, and acts are proportionally specified by their formal objects. To this principle, repeatedly invoked in the Summa, Thomism insistently returns.

This treatise on the pure spirit, on intuitive knowledge, lies on a very high level. Its conclusions on the angelic will are faithful to the principle: nothing willed unless foreknown as good. From the speculative point of view this treatise is a masterpiece, a proof of the intellectual superiority of the Angelic Doctor, an immense step forward from the Sentences of Peter the Lombard. Scotus and Suarez did not maintain this elevation, did not see the sublimity, intellectual and voluntary, of the pure spirit as contrasted with the lowly intellect and will of man.

Chapter 25: Angelic Merit And Demerit

St. Thomas holds that all the angels were elevated to the state of grace before the moment of their trial, because without sanctifying grace they could not merit supernatural happiness. With this doctrine Scotus and Suarez agree. They also agree in saying that most probably all angels received this gift at the moment of their creation. All three teachers, following St. Augustine, [611] hold that the revelation had the obscurity of faith. [612] The three agree also in saying that after their trial the good angels were immovably confirmed in grace and received the beatific vision, while the wicked angels became obstinate in evil. But, notwithstanding this agreement, there remain three problems concerning the state of the angels before and during their trial. On these problems St. Thomas again differs widely from Scotus and Suarez.

1. Natural Happiness

St. Thomas holds that at the very moment of their creation the angels received all their natural perfection of spirit and their natural happiness, because their innate knowledge proceeds instantaneously, without succession, from faculty to act. Hence, at the very moment of creation, they have perfect intuition of their own nature, and in that nature as mirror they know God as author of that nature, on which their own natural law is inscribed. Simultaneously also in that same moment they know all other angels, and have instantaneous use of their own infused ideas.

Here Scotus and Suarez do not follow St. Thomas. They deny, first, that angels had natural beatitude from the moment of creation. They hold, secondly, that the angels could, from that first moment, sin against the natural law directly and immediately. In reply, Thomists simply insist that pure spirits must from their first moment of creation, know their own selves perfectly as pure spirits, and hence know their own nature as mirror of the Author of that nature, and consequently must love that Author as the source of their own natural life, which they necessarily desire to preserve.

2. Instantaneous Choice

At the very moment of creation, so St. Thomas, the angels could not sin, but neither could they fully merit, because their very first act must be specially inspired by God, without their own self-initiated interior deliberation. But at the second instant came either full merit or full demerit. The good angel after the first act of charity, by which he merited supernatural beatitude, was at once among the blessed. [613] Just as immediately the demons were repudiated.

Hence, with St. Thomas, we must distinguish three instants in the life of the angel: first, that of creation; second, that of merit or demerit; third, that of supernatural beatitude [614] or of reprobation. We must note, however, that an angelic instant, which is the measure of one angelic thought, may correspond to a more or less long period of our time, according to the more or less deep absorption of the angel in one thought. An analogy, in illustration, is that of the contemplative who may rest for hours in one and the same truth.

The reason for the instantaneousness of the divine sanction after the first angelic act, fully meritorious or fully demeritorious, has been given above. Angelic knowledge is not abstract and discursive like ours, but purely intuitive and simultaneous. The angel does not pass successively, as we do, from one angle of thought to another. He sees at once, simultaneously, all the advantages and disadvantages. Hence his judgment once made is irrevocable. There is nothing he has not already considered.

What kind of sin was that of the demons? Pride, says St. Thomas. [615] They chose as supreme purpose that which they could obtain by their natural powers, and hence turned away from supernatural beatitude, which can be reached only by the grace of God. Thus, instead of humility and obedience, they chose pride and disobedience, the sin of naturalism.
Scotus and Suarez, as we have seen, since they hold that the angelic knowledge is discursive and successive, maintain likewise that the angel's practical judgment and act of choice are revocable, but that after many mortal sins, God no longer gives them the grace of conversion.

3. Source Of Angelic Merit

St. Thomas holds that the essential grace and glory of the angels does not depend on the merits of Christ, because "the Word was made flesh for men and for our salvation." Christ merited as Redeemer. Now the essential grace of the angels was not a redemptive grace. [616] And their essential glory, he says elsewhere, [617] was given them by Christ, not as Redeemer, but as the Word of God. Yet the Word incarnate did merit graces for the angels, graces not essential but accidental, to enable them to cooperate in the salvation of men.
Scotus again differs. Since the Word, he says, also in the actual plan of Providence, would have become man even if man had not sinned, we should hold that Christ merited for the angels also their essential grace and glory. And Suarez holds that Adam's sin was the occasion and condition, not of the Incarnation, but of the Redemption. Even if man had not sinned, he says, the Word would still perhaps have become incarnate, but would not have suffered. Hence, he concludes, Christ merited for the good angels their essential grace and glory, and is therefore their Savior.

Thomists reply that Christ is the Savior only as Redeemer. But for the angels He is not Redeemer. Further, they reflect, if the angels owed to Christ their essential glory, the beatific vision, they would, like the just of the Old Testament, have had to wait for that vision until Christ rose from the dead.

Let us summarize this Thomistic treatise on the angels. The main point of difference from Scotus and Suarez lies in the specific difference between angelic intelligence and human intelligence, a difference that depends on their respective formal object, his own essence for the angel, for the man the essence of the sense world known by abstraction. Hence angelic knowledge is completely intuitive. From this position derive all further conclusions of St. Thomas, on angelic knowledge, will, merit, and demerit. This Thomistic [618] conception of pure spirit is much higher than that of Scotus and Suarez. This treatise also throws much light on the following treatise where St. Thomas, in studying the nature of man, dwells on the quasi-angelic state of the separated soul.

A last remark. St. Thomas, as he proceeds, corrects the grave errors of the Latin Averroists, who looked upon all immaterial substances as eternal and immutable, as having a knowledge eternally complete, as depending on God, not for creation, but only for preservation. [619].


596. 596 Ia, q. 50, a. 1, 2.
597. Ia, q 54, a. 1, 2, 3.
598. Ia, q. 50. a. 4.
599. Ipsum esse irreceptum est subsistens et unicum. Ia, q. 7, a1; q. 11, a. 3.
600. Ia, q. 12, a. 4.
601. Ia, q. 55, a. 3.
602. Ia, q. 58, a. 3.
603. Componendo et dividendo.
604. Ia, q. 58, a. 4.
605. Ia, q. 57, a. 3, 4, 5.
606. Nihil volitum nisi praecognitum ut conveniens, et nihil praevolitum nisi praecognitum ut convenientius hic et nunc.
607. Ia, q. 60, a. 5.
608. Ia, q. 63, a. 1, ad 3;De malo, q. 16, a. 3.
609. Ia, q. 62, a. 4, 5; q. 63, a. 5, 6. 
610. Ia, q. 64, a. 2.
611. De civ. Dei, XII, 9. Cf. Ia, q. 62, a. 3.
612. Ia, q. 64, a. 1, ad 4.
613. Angelus post primum actum caritatis quo beatitudinem (supernaturalem) meruit, statim beatus fuit. Ia, q. 62, a. 5.
614. This instant is already the one unique instant of eternity.
615. Ia, q. 63, a. 3616 Cf. De ver..: q. 29, a. 7, ad 5.
617. IIIa, q. 59, a. 6.
618. See Cajetan, Banez, John of St. Thomas, the Carmelites of Salamanca, Gonet, and Billuart.
619. Cf. Mandonnet, Siger de Brabant et l'Averoisme latin au XIIIe siecle, and ed.: Louvain, 1908-610. Introd. and chap. 6; also Denifle, Chartularium univ. parisien.: I, 543.

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