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The Intellect - Angelic vs. Human


We have all heard much about Angels - What does the Church teach about them?

Angels are the invisible spirits that God created before He created the physical universe. They are pure spirits, having no body whatsoever. They do not have wings, despite the fact that artists usually portray them that way. The wings represent their swiftness in the physical world. They are often portrayed as children, to convey their innocence.

The angels, like men, were given free will. They were able to choose to serve God or not. Unlike men, they cannot vacillate back and forth, but rather see everything to its logical conclusion. If they were to turn against God, it would be a permanent state. Therefore when many of the angels decided to follow Lucifer, the highest of the angels, in his rebellion against God ("I will not serve"), they were cast into Hell. They would not ever repent, their wills being set on evil.

In short, there was more malice in their sin, because of the greater clarity of understanding. They are not confused, ignorant, and weak as humans are.

St. Thomas has discussed the angels at length in his famous work, the Summa Theologica. Since the 1300's, his teaching has always been given first place at the seminaries and universities. Countless popes and councils over the centuries have made firm recommendations to make extensive use of the Summa Theologica.

In what way are the angels and devils far above us in the order of nature?

In what way does their intellect excel ours?


Here is an excerpt from The Angels by Pascal P. Parente:

Our human mind comes into possession of knowledge by a gradual and laborious process. It requires first of all a number of years of physical development for the proper operation. It rises slowly from single sensible perceptions to general ideas of things and finally to abstract truth. The Angelic intellect, entirely free and independent from matter and senses, needs no such development. It is in the full possession of its power from the very beginning of its existence. There is no need of gathering elements of knowledge bit by bit, of adding ideas to ideas in order to discover truth, as is the case with us. Having been created in the full perfection of its nature, the Angelic mind neither develops by gradual growth nor does it suffer any decay; its knowledge does not pass by consecutive steps from the haze of the morning to the splendor of the noonday brightness. From the beginning of its existence it was able to grasp the objects within its own sphere and advert to them without any fatigue in the process, moving in the dazzling light of the purely spiritual world as in its proper element.

Being by nature higher than man and much closer to God, the Angels receive more of His light, that is, a greater power of understanding, infused ideas, mind-pictures representing external objects, the spiritual and material creatures of this universe.

(Taken from The Angels, by Fr. Pascal P. Parente. TAN Books & Publishers, 1994)

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