2020/08/14

Angels and Demons

Saint Michael the Archangel casts out demons

A reader writes:
[O]ne thing has been made clear for me over the past few years: the existence of demons. Its something that myself and others have become more and more awakened to, thanks in no small part to the works of you and others mentioned. One thing that isn't clear is the existence of angels. If you've the time, could you, perhaps in a blog post, talk about that? For me, it's much easier to buy the existence of demons because we see the evils that they are responsible for on a daily basis but what kinds of good do angels bring about? How do they affect our world? 
I answer:

Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, argues in the Summa Theologiae that, while we can't deduce exactly what angels are from reason alone, we can conclude that they exist.

His argument proceeds from the observation that nature abhors a vacuum. Specifically, in the order of being. Everywhere we find being, we note that it exists in a hierarchical spectrum with no place left empty. Look at the periodic table of elements, for example. We can and do discern the existence of elements before they're discovered due to gaps in the table.

In the order of living beings, we see that there are purely physical, non-spiritual creatures (plants and animals), creatures with both a physical and a limited spiritual dimension (humans), and a purely spiritual, unlimited Being (God).

Logic dictates that a type of being must exist in the gap between limited enfleshed spirits and the unlimited pure Spirit. These would be limited pure spirits, which we call angels.

Now, Aquinas further explains that "angel" is more of a job description than the proper name of this type of being. Similarly, "demon" describes the corrupted state of those members of this class of pure spirits who chose evil and are now outside of God's grace.

The existence of angels follows directly from the existence of demons, since everything that exists was created good. We know this because evil has no substance of its own. Evil is a lacking or deficiency in the good. So demons are angels who took on a moral deficiency by their own free choice.

My gentle reader further asks:
Thanks for your response! That makes sense. I was also thinking about if angelic possession was possible. To my uneducated mind, perhaps not.  Free will is something that God gifted us with, above all other animals. So something undermining that could go against God's will for us to choose right or wrong. I guess I've just been contemplating their purpose but you've provided a lot to think about as far as the matter of their existence.
I answer:

Since they're non-corporeal, pure spirits need not cover the intervening distance to travel from place to place. They simply are anywhere they think about at a given time.

Because a pure spirit is located where it is currently focusing its thoughts, it doesn't so much occupy space as suffuse the object of its attention.

That should give you an idea of how possession works.

Now, the will is a spiritual faculty. Humans are in fact the only beings with a physical dimension who have it. (Animals only have appetite, not will).

Spirits are made of no adjacent parts, so they're non-negotiable, non-miscible, and non-transferable. (This is why transgenderism is nonsense).

A demon who thinks about a pin suffuses the matter of--i.e. "possesses"--the pin. The human body is made of matter, so demons can perform the same operation on it. You're right that they can't directly violate the will or the intellect, though. Possession acts purely on the body.

Possessing a human's body is a grave affront to that person's dignity. Therefore angels, who are confirmed in goodness since immediately after the moment of their creation, cannot possess humans since to do so would be sinful, and angels cannot sin.

Even demons cannot indiscriminately possess humans. They are still subject to God and cannot afflict anyone unless He allows it.
Goes beyond analysis into action
Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You - Brian Niemeier

20 comments:

  1. What about the concept of 'guardian angels'?

    I am minded of many stories of, say, a soldier in a foxhole who 'feels' something pulling him back that is not him just before a bullet smacks into right where he was going to; or people who survive accidents by doing the exact right thing by 'giving up control' and going loose.

    In this case, would this be 'possession' by a guardian angel - which is in unity with the will to survive of the target?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Church affirms the reality of guardian angels. Aquinas asserts that not only does every human being who has ever existed or will exist have a guardian angel created for that purpose, so do human organizations all the way up to the national level.

      Delete
    2. That's not possession per se. It would either be the angel enlightening the soldier's intellect to warn him to move, or it would be the angel shoving him--which is a far lesser degree of material interaction than possession.

      Delete
    3. It's probably silly to pity an angel, but the notion that every human soul has a guardian makes me a bit sad for those guardian angels whose humans were murdered before they were born. Or after they were born, for that matter.

      Could the notion that organizations have angels, too, explain the feeling that fellow had inside the walls of that ruined, but not de-consecrated, church in Scotland?

      Delete
    4. As saints, angels are perfectly happy and behold God's face at all times. The salvation of a guardian angel's charge would likely accidentally increase his joy, though.

      Delete
    5. If we each have guardian angel...makes you wonder if we each have an instigating demon assigned as well.

      Delete
  2. John C. Wright's story Pale Realms of Shade contains a good take on guardian angels. They are not to be trifled with. They, along with the saints to whom this task has been given (Mary and Joseph holding the prime places) are the secondary causes God uses to keep the demons in check, who otherwise are so unimaginably more intelligent and powerful than mere humans we would have no hope.

    Current events may yet puncture our delusional belief that we walk about as masters of this earth of our own power. In reality, through the grace of Christ's death and Resurrection, we are protected like a bunch of toddlers in a minefield, blissfully ignorant of the threats we're being protected from by powers too glorious to contemplate. It's not for nothing that the angels are largely hidden from us, and the first words out of an angel's mouth are 'be not afraid'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amen. It can't be overstated just how powerful these beings are.

      Say, for the sake of argument, that the entire Norse pantheon with all the powers attributed to them in folklore were real. The least member of the lowest choir of angels could easily thrash them all with one hand tied behind his back.

      Delete
    2. I saw someone online claim that the least angel has sufficient power to destroy the entire material universe. I haven’t found their source, but the claim is not implausible.

      Delete
    3. Medieval manuals on witchcraft warned against angels, telling practitioners that no wards or rituals could contain them and that they would burn the practitioner to ash with a mere gaze for what they were attempting to do.

      Delete
  3. One of the more fanciful interpretions of the film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly I've heard is that Tuco (the ugly) is the human and that Blondie (the good) is literally his guardian angel. Viewed that way, it raises the question: what does a guardian angel do when his ward is an utterly depraved scoundrel? The answer this film suggests is repeatedly bring him close to death that he may repent. Here's the scene: https://youtu.be/RFhHN2-l6M4
    Note the line, "Even a filthy beggar like that has a protecting angel." Then when Tuco almost gets hanged when Blondie misses his shot at the rope, he remarks later, "When that rope pulls tight, you can feel the Devil bite your ass!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Intriguing. I'll have to rewatch the movie with that in mind.

      It raises the question: Would the (then ironically named) Angel Eyes be Tuco's tempting devil?

      Delete
    2. Angel Eyes (the bad) seems to me impersonal malice toward anything that comes within his range.

      People love to prattle on about this film making good an evil ambiguous, but Blondie is fundamentally good. Here is the scene where he comforts a dying soldier: https://youtu.be/QBn0Afu8mE8

      It's a gratuitous act that gains Blondie nothing. He even leaves the soldier covered in his own coat (the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead in a sense.)

      Delete
    3. Brian

      A really great post and commentary about angels.

      I was unaware that countries could also have guardian angels. How then do they complement the patron saints of cities and countries?

      Are angels are viceroys or sensechals who dispense justice or assist the patron saints as God sees fit in the unfolding of His providence?

      Delete
    4. I pity the Guardian Angels of North Korea and China...that would be an overwhelming job.

      Delete
    5. But as Xi and 5he party'll learn as Justinian did, the Lord ultimately triumphs. I won't be surprised if in the future they'll be Korean and Chinese pilgrimage sites where saints and martyrs will be honoured

      xavier

      Delete
  4. Don't Demons have to be invited in to possess? Or a least have the door opened for them? Having meet some that I think are or were possessed it is often the ones that were either abuses as kids, take a lot of drugs, held lots of weird items, into eastern or sin a lot and did not repented (or ask for god's forgiveness)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My understanding is that yes, they do. I've also heard from multiple sources that the invitation can be given by someone in spiritual authority over the victim, such as mothers who are practicing witches giving demons leave to possess their children.

      Consider also the magnitude of intellects involved. The stupidest demon really does make Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle look like morons. And they can put all that IQ to use finagling invitations.

      Best to go out of one's way not to involve oneself with them.

      Delete
    2. There are several short articles relevant to that at this website. Certain sins invite demons too, if not in possession at least to hang around and constantly tempt/put obsessions in peoples' minds.

      https://www.catholicexorcism.org

      One of these was an infested house: https://www.catholicexorcism.org/post/exorcist-diary-81-an-infested-house

      Delete