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It was a pride that could not, would not, stoop to the things love inspires. We look in vain for any mention of love among the Eastern philosophers. Love, you see, has a way of being satisfied with the crumbs that fall from the table. Love cannot be proud: The results of this personification of a dream, this enthronement of the pride of intellect, were cataclysmic and, strangely, uniform wherever this dream took to itself a body.

In Brahminism, in Buddhism, in Taoism the goal of wisdom was always the same: If men would be angels, then they would in fact become neither angels nor men. Beginnings are always difficult things; perhaps that is why man is always so impatient at the beginning of things. At any rate, he is much more inclined to indulge in a dream than to swing an axe, even an intellectual axe.

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It was almost natural, then, that at the beginning of the modern scientific age some one should take refuge in the age-old dream of an angelic short-cut to knowledge. The modern father of angelism, which destroys both angels and men, was Descartes. The slow, plodding steps of reasoning were impatiently brushed aside in favor of the rapier-thrust of angelic knowledge which would contain all else that was to be known. And this knowledge was made a practically innate affair; indeed, if it were to be so independent, there was nothing else to do but insist on its innate character.

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After all, it had been completely cut off from the material world in which it existed. The dream of men a natural gift of the angels: Obviously, the denial of the reasoning processes and of the contact of reason with the material world, isolates and perverts the mind of a man. Rationalism trod its suicidal way through Locke, Berkeley and Hume; then Kant rushed to the rescue of reason but his aim was bad and reason died from the shot he fired.

From this orphaned home where philosophy was a beaten waif, there came forth idealism and naturalism: The dream has remained unchanged since the beginnings of the human race; it has appeared in philosophic dress again and again since the first puzzlings of the first philosophers. Its results have remained uniformly tragic; now, as always, the dream crashes in the unsounded depths of pessimism.

And the lesson the dream teaches is still unlearnt. We still do not agree that it is not by casting away the bone we have that we shall find food, it is not by trying to become something other than ourselves that we can accomplish anything but our own destruction. It is as true now as it was in the beginning that we do not improve nature by destroying it; that originality does not consist in being different but in the astonishingly humble courage to be ourselves.

We do not attain perfection by pretensions to the angelic but by being most thoroughly human. Through the ages, the promise of this dream which has haunted men was perfect knowledge in a perfect way.


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What man has striven for, even at the cost of his humanity, the angels have by their very nature. Their knowledge is had in a perfect way. Knowledge comes to the angel in the first instant of its existence, without loss of time or energy, without labor, and completely free of any dependence on the world of creatures beneath the angelic world. Innate knowledge in the angels means precisely what one would suspect: There is no worry about it on the part of the angel; knowledge is an integral part of the angelic nature.

Yet this does not mean that the angelic knowledge is the angelic substance, the angelic essence.

Angels are not large masses of knowledge wandering about the courts of heaven; nor are they subsistent intellects. The intellects of the angels, as the intellects of men, are faculties, potentialities: If, indeed, their intellects were identical with their substance then the angels would be identical with God; they would he subsistent intellects and intelligence is one of those perfections that of themselves are infinite, utterly Perfect. Subsistent intelligence, as we have seen, is a property of God. This should not be obscure. After all, it is plain that a non-existing dog does not bite, nor is the bite of an existing dog the dog itself.

So the existing angel is presupposed to the knowing angel; it does not know until it exists, nor does it exist by the fact of knowledge. As a matter of fact, the angelic existence, marvelously perfect as it must be to match the angelic nature, still falls short of the wide scope of angelic knowledge.

What are Angels

Angelic existence is limited to that one angelic species, that one angel; while angelic knowledge is free to roam from God to worms and back again. In both men and angels, intellect is a power, a faculty, an accident perfecting nature. In us there must be both an active and a possible intellect, as we shall see more thoroughly later on in this book. The first finds the potentially intelligible material in the products of the imagination and makes it actually intelligible to the possible intellect, bridging the gap between the material and the spiritual; the second, actually understands.

In somewhat this same way the infra-red ray camera and the human eye cooperate; the camera, on its film, making actually visible what formerly had been only potentially visible, then it is the eye that sees. In the angels, the intellect is never merely a blank sheet waiting for knowledge to be scribbled on it, it is never merely potentially intelligent.

Their knowledge is innate; so the objects of their knowledge, from the very beginning, exist in them immaterially, in an actually intelligible way. It will, perhaps, help us to grasp the immateriality of the angels and their knowledge if we remember that the whole field of imagination, which so enriches human life, is completely missing in the angelic world. The angels have no imagination. Of they had imaginations they would not be angels.

For imagination is the function of a corporal organ, part of our sensitive or animal equipment; it is one of the links that bind us to the animal world, like a spinal column, hunger or death. Without a body, imagination is altogether impossible. Angels, then, have never felt the sleekness of velvet or the hard gaiety of silk, the rush of wind on a spring day or the softness of a rich turf. They have never had the feel of clean clothes, the agony of tight shoes or a ragged collar.


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  5. In fact they may know how these things feel, but their knowledge of them is purely intellectual; they have no sensitive knowledge, for the simple reason that they have no senses with which to know. This is the quite apparent reason why their knowledge must be innate; there is no way in which it can be gathered from the material world. On this same ground of their absolute spirituality, we must exclude all passions from the angels.

    Some of the early Fathers explained the wiles and craftiness of women on the grounds of a quite reprehensible carnal familiarity with the fallen angels: Angels do not tremble with fear, pace the floor with anxiety or boil with anger. This sort of thing belongs in our world, not in the world of the angels. The intuitive character of angelic knowledge is much more readily grasped by our minds than its innateness; we ourselves have some little taste of that mysterious intellectual action of intuition.

    In its higher forms it is the brilliant flash that illumines the minds of men of genius, the mystic penetration of the saints and the deep understanding of the simple faithful relative to the mysteries of faith. That intellect is a faculty or potentiality; it must be fulfilled by some act, by some form. That other form, that other medium, can be no other than the intelligible species, the ideas, the mental similitudes, the intentional existence of created things. There is no other possibility: God could give supernatural knowledge proper to Himself, as He does in the vision of His essence, but this would still be a gift, not a natural knowledge for an angel; the angel itself is inadequate to represent the whole created world; every inferior creature is not only inadequate, it is physically incapable of affecting the angelic intellect.

    Since there is no such division, and thus no material impediment to self-possession, the angel possesses itself directly in an immaterial way, and possesses itself completely. But here is where the "middle term" enters: Thus the angel knows itself, its own essence, completely; 1 and since will is proportioned to intellect, the angel's volition and "movement" is characterized by completely spontaneous self-determination on the basis of its knowledge. The chip storing the Read-Only Memory in a computer contains the immutable routines controlling input and output for the computer.

    It determines the basic functions of a computer, and cannot be modified in its essential functions by programs running in the computer. In a sense, it is the innate, predetermined program for the computer as a whole. The Random-Access Memory of a computer opens up the possibility of receiving an influx of data and images from programs and input devices; thus the maximum capacities of a computer can to a great extent be utilized only if maximal megabytes of RAM, proportional to hardware and operating-system capabilities, have been installed in that computer.

    Angels, according to Aquinas, possess a negative or privative potency which is inversely proportional to their perfection. The higher angels have maximum act and minimum potentiality, while the inferior angels have proportionally "less act, more potency. The inferior angels, because of the greater relative deprivation of actuality in their form, need to be continually equalized with their superiors through the proportionally greater number of infused species they receive from their comrades and God Himself. Hard Drives and Intellectual Memory: A distinction is made in contemporary computers between "main memory" or storage capacity, and the volatile memory in RAM.

    When "memory" is spoken of without further qualification with reference to computers, RAM is usually meant. When the "memory" of intellectual beings is referred to without further qualification, something like "storage capacity" is usually meant. Among intellectual beings, humans have both sense memory and intellectual memory. Whatever the merits of this analogy, angels, according to Aquinas, being purely spiritual creatures, have only intellectual memory, not sense memory. A comparison with Leibniz's monads, which mirror all things in an intrinsic fashion, is probably in order here.

    In other words, images of all things, including sense objects, are stored in an angel's intellectual memory; and these images can be accessed and applied whenever needed. The Operating System and the Reception of Information: Granted that RAM gives a computer the capacity to receive information, how does the data actually come to be accessed? The answer to this question in the case of computers is obviously the operating system; a computer must have an operating system such as DOS or OS2 or Unix or Windows NT to begin receiving data and commands.

    Human beings, because of their corporeality and discursive type of rationality, must process information sequentially with what Aristotle called the "possible intellect. Essentials - The Bible 3. Essentials - Word Searching 4. Help Quick Nav Advanced Options. Old Testament New Testament. Search Results in Other Versions. Advanced Options Exact Match.

    Don Stewart :: What Is the Character of Angels?

    En dash not Hyphen. Subscribe to our Newsletter. Daily Bible Reading Plans x. Recently Popular Pages x. Spurgeon's Morning and Evening O. Recently Popular Media x. Ezekiel Bob Davis Matthew What Is the Character of Angels? The Bible tells us much about the nature or character of angels. From a study of Scripture we find them to be personal, intelligent beings who obey the will of God.

    Obedient Angels are obedient to God's commandments. They do not hesitate to obey the Lord when He commands them. Holy The angels were originally created as holy beings to serve God. Isaiah records the angels as saying: And one called to another and said: Reverent The highest activity of angels is the worship of God. To all of them You give life, and the host of heaven worships You Nehemiah 9: They continually praise and glorify God, usually in His presence.

    On one occasion, at the birth of Jesus, the angels came to the earth. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom He favors! Communicate To Anyone Language is no barrier for angels. Paul referred to the speaking ability of angels. Though I speak with the tongues of humans and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal 1 Corinthians Not only can angels speak, they can communicate to any people, in any language, on the face of the earth.

    We find an angel preaching the everlasting gospel to the entire world before Christ returns. Then I saw another angel flying in the middle of heaven, with the everlasting gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth - to every nation and tribe and language and people Revelation Every language was able to understand the message of this angel. Intelligent Creatures When the angels were created, they were made as intelligent spirits. They have been learning from the time they were created - having had the opportunity to observe God's dealings with humanity.

    In addition, their intelligence has not been corrupted by sin as is the case with humanity. Therefore their intelligence is beyond that of humans. Scripture acknowledges their knowledge. In order to change the course of affairs your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth 2 Samuel We find angels in a council.

    God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him Psalm The fact that we find angels in heavenly councils, and bringing divine revelation to humanity, shows their knowledge is superior to human beings. Limited Knowledge Though angels have superior intelligence to humans, their knowledge is limited.