GOVERNMENT OF THE SPIRITUAL WORLD
From the nature of government
POLITICAL action consists in working together to the common end under a united direction. Notice the word “common”; for every time the note of common is struck in the field of politics, the fact of communication is solemnly announced. Men do not get very far in political union if they are enemies so bitter that they have built an impenetrable spite fence between their minds. For government supposes an end common to a multitude, since it consists in directing the many to that one end. That there must be a goal over and above the individual one is brought out by a contrast of anarchy with government, for anarchy is the acme of complete self-interest, the pursuit of an individual end to the exclusion of all else; logically, anarchy reaches its full maturity in a solitary inhabitant of a desolate island, at least a desolate spiritual island. A common end among men who cannot communicate with each other is unthinkable.
Try to imagine men existing with absolutely nothing in common — neither race, species, ideals, thoughts — and you have a picture of loneliness so desolate or of savagery so intense as to give the woes and wars of men as we know them a merry air. If, by an impossible hypothesis, government did exist among such men, it would be a sterile, stagnant, dead thing; for the proper act of government, the means by which that common end is reached, namely, law, is itself a communication from the governor to those governed, the flagship’s flash to the fleet. Such a government might look well under glass or mounted on a signet ring; certainly it could serve none but a decorative purpose.
It is essential, then, that we investigate the matter of communication for the rest of this book will be engaged with the question of government. In the last chapter, we saw something of the government of the physical world in general and what God can and must do in the movement of creatures to their end; in this chapter and the succeeding ones, we shall investigate the part played in the government of the world by creatures — angels, men and irrational creation.
From difference of government
Before plunging into the question of communication among the angels, it might be well to dispose of the inevitable objection against the necessity of communication for government. It will unquestionably be pointed out, it always has, that chemicals and trees do not communicate with each other or with members of the same species, yet they follow immutable laws thus giving incontrovertible evidence of government. The objection is well worthwhile in that it brings out clearly the two distinct classes of creatures which are directed by the divine law governing the universe.
One class is governed and in no sense governs itself, that is, the inanimate world, the plant world and the world of brutes. Plant and inanimate creation is completely devoid of communication; yet in that creation there is perfect unity of action, of end and of direction. The point to notice is that this direction is all one-sided. This plant and inanimate world is like a world of slaves whose slavery is so abject that their end, their direction, the very response made to direction comes from the governor. These creatures are passive participants in divine providence. The brute world has some kind of communication; at least there seems no hesitancy on the part of a mongrel in reading rightly the confidently low-pitched growl of a bull dog, a cat and her kittens succeed in making known their mutual needs and anxieties. Here the crucial fact is that the brutes have no communication as between subject and governor; that is, they have no recognition of nature’s commands as commands, no knowledge of laws as laws, but only a necessary response to an extrinsic principle which has stamped its directions in the essential principles of brute nature. This is but another form of passive participation in providence.
The other class of creatures are governed in the strictest sense of the term. They are not only governed, they take an active part in that government and, in a very real sense, govern themselves. They share in divine providence passively by obedience to physical laws and actively by acting as a principle of direction for themselves and others. These are the creatures of the rational and intellectual worlds, men and angels.
These creatures can do what they are told; but they know they are being told and why they are being told. If the reason for the command remains obscure, there is certain to be some discussion, sharp criticism and even open revolt. These creatures not only have communication among themselves but also with the governor and his government: they know the common end and the different means to that end, they are consciously aware of the laws directing them to that end. All of this has been said effectively in what has come to be an American symbol: the general store, with its cracker barrel and homespun politicians, is a declaration of the sharp difference between the role played by men and by the rest of the physical world in the divine government; when such gatherings become popular among fleas or birds, we can begin to feel uneasy about the reality of that distinction. Until such a time, men will proclaim that truth even though they gather to deny it.
Because of our intellectual nature, the angels and ourselves are free, we have a choice of means to that common end. That freedom establishes beyond question individuality of thought and action; it thus gives rise to the infinite variety of social life and, at the same time, makes absolutely essential the communication we call speech if there is to be any social life. For speech is the means by which those strikingly different individualities are moulded into one social whole which works coherently through government to its common end. The very first evidence of group action comes with the first evidence of communication in the brutes; but they are a physical whole rather than a moral unit, they are pushed by the will of another, rather than united to govern themselves to a consciously recognized common end. However, even such group action as they have would be impossible without at least a minimum of communication.
Communication among the angels
We must establish communication among the angels, then, before there can be any talk of government among them: and, since they are a part of intellectual creation and should have an active part in governing themselves, their communication must be not merely of subject to subject but also of subject to governor and government. The establishment of communication among the angels is exceedingly simple. For angelic nature is not the type to sit sullenly in a corner without a word to say, feeling all alone in the world. The angels are one step higher than men in mirroring the divine perfections; in comparison with their intellectual powers, our own minds are cripples, limping along on crutches. They are intellectual natures, which means that they must have a knowledge of the end for which they were created and for which they act, as well as of the means by which that end is to be obtained. In other words, by the very fact of being intellectual, they must know the purpose of government and the laws by which that purpose is achieved: if this be denied them they have been changed from angels into something considerably less than men.
On the same grounds of intellectuality, as we have seen, the angels must be conceded freedom, the choice of means to their end, for appetite follows knowledge and an intellectual appetite can be satisfied only by the universal or supreme good. Even though there are no vicious temperaments among them, they are strikingly different personalities who necessarily demand communication as a means of moulding the multitude into a social and political whole. Anarchy, you will remember, cannot happen among the brutes; it is knowledge and freedom that makes anarchy possible and that also gives rise to that active share in government — but only on condition of communication.
One comforting thing about intellectual nature is that every individual has something to communicate all the time. The hushed silence of patients in a doctor’s office is a ghastly thing, whereas the effortless chatter of women on a streetcar has a comfortable human air about it; it is true that we have nothing to say only when our minds, hearts and imaginations have been utterly inactive, it is never true that we must search desperately for an original thought, for any thought that is ours is original. The personal element that colors every thought, every emotion is so distinctively original that it has never been seen before in the world and never will again; no one can possibly get at it until we have brought it out and made a gift of it to the world. For all these things are not the result of response to mere external stimuli but the totally incalculable and utterly secret results of highly individual activity.
Unlike other creatures, members of the rational and intellectual world cannot reach their fullest perfection except through others, that is, through the medium of social life. Society, whether among men or angels, is not a luxury of civilization but a necessity of nature. The rest of creation has an elaborate equipment for life and needs it badly, for life there is a solitary, pioneer affair; man has only his reason, his hands and other men, the angels have only intellect, will and other angels. To deprive such as these of communication would be much more serious than pulling a lion’s teeth or making a cat wear leather heels.
It is not only angelic nature but the whole scheme of the universe that cries out for communication among the angels. As we approach the perfection of God, the imaging of divine perfections is more perfect; we come up the steps of perfection through mere being, then life, sense knowledge, rational or human knowledge to the heights of the intellectual life of the angels. Each of these grades of perfection has its own proper activity flowing from, and in full harmony with, its particular nature. So the supreme and necessary divine action is that substantial communication which is the Trinity; its closest image is the communication of thought and its consequent awakening of love; then, running down the scale of perfection, there is the communication by generation in the brutes and plants; and, finally, only a faint vestige of the Trinity is to be found in the mere existence of the inanimate world.
It is only the man who is conscious of his weakness who dares not share his strength, the frail man who must conserve his health, the ignorant man who must be niggardly with his knowledge, and the fool who has nothing of wisdom to offer; for it is a universal law of perfection that it seeks to scatter itself, to communicate itself to others. A miserly man of great wealth is an object of contempt even to himself for, in a sense, he is so dull he has not yet realized his wealth; his heart is still the heart of a street gamin who must use teeth and claws in the acquisition and defense of every penny. Without any other argument than the perfection of angelic nature, communication between the angels is an obvious truth; such perfection must be scattered, must be shared and in the only way possible to an intellectual nature, that is, intellectually, by the revelation of a concept or truth to another mind.
Its double nature: enlightenment and speech
In general, this intellectual communication among the angels corresponds to communication between men; it may be described as the manifestation of the angelic concepts to another angel. Among ourselves communication takes the double form of teaching or just talking, of revealing a concept as dependent from the first and supreme truth or as dependent from the individual will of the talker; we can demonstrate the freedom of man or we can mention our love of the opera, a favorite restaurant and our preferences for the company of certain people. In the angels, this distinction is much more sharply differentiated than in us; to its parts theologians have given the imposing names of illumination (or enlightenment) and speech.
Enlightenment is nothing more or less than what we call teaching, understanding teaching, of course, as the manifestation of truth and not as the exposition of wild theories of a man bent on being different or the Panicky wanderings of an unprepared professor. The concept revealed in enlightenment or illumination does not depend on our will but on the first truth; that is, it corresponds; to things as they are. Obviously, we are not teaching others when we bore them with our dreams, impress them I with our good intentions or wheedle them with our wishes. Teaching among the angels is quite a different procedure than it is among men. For angels do not teach one another by unwinding a long chain of reasoning to drop the anchor of truth in another’s mind; reasoning is a human necessity for a human weakness, the crutch on which our minds hobble to the truth. The angelic teaching is not flavored by a liberal sprinkling of images, illustrations or contrasts; these are products of imagination and imagination is totally lacking in the angels. For them, the task of teaching is one of complete simplicity; they bring about the knowledge of truth in another angel by fortifying the inferior intellect and then manifesting the concept they wish to impart, taking the lower angel by the hand and then turning on the light.
It is true that the fortification of another intellect is a somewhat mysterious action. It cannot be by any direct action on the intellect of the angelic disciple, tightening its bolts, throwing up a few supports, or pouring in distilled strength; only God can act directly on the intellect and will. It seems rather to be an indirect bringing out of a little better than the best that is in a disciple, spurring the pupil on to actions that would not be possible to him alone. St. Thomas gives an invaluable clue in his use of the word “comforting” to describe the superior angers action on the inferior’s intellect. With this comfort, the inferior angel understands much better, as a small boy sleeps much better in his mother’s bed on a stormy night though he must do his own sleeping, or as an infant walks with assured help handy but falls instantly when that help is not in reach; so boys are bolder and more mischievous in the comforting presence of the gang.
The real sense of Thomas’ carefully carved word is even stronger than this. For the inferior always works better in union with the superior, as vegetable life in animals is superior to that in plants, and sensitive life in man is superior to sensitive life in animals. Though the parallel is not exact because we are specifically equal, this same thing can be vaguely seen in the activities of men: a man plays better golf when his rivals are his superiors at the game, a man does better thinking when he is wrestling with an intellectual opponent who has him outclassed. On the contrary, a few years in the gutter will be no help to the finish of a cultured woman, there is a distinct intellectual deterioration in the thinkers of the Church in the absence of real opposition, muscles that are not strained become flabby. Just the fact of working with a superior intellect is itself a strengthening, a comforting of the inferior angel’s mind.
The second step in this teaching, the manifestation of the concept, is accomplished by simply breaking it up. We have seen that a superior angel understands by fewer and more universal concepts; to hand down these concepts unchanged to an inferior angel would be like giving a child his father’s clothes. They might be much better clothes, but are much too big for the child; so, in themselves, these superior concepts are much better concepts. but they are too big for an inferior intellect and result in only a vague, confused knowledge. They have to be cut and shaped to fit the intellect of the angelic disciple, made more particular, their universality shrunk.
None of the angelic doctors can really be called specialists. The subject matter for their teaching embraces the universe of created things. It has not to do with the essence of God or the beatific vision of that essence; after all, every angel sees the divine essence to its full capacity and, anyhow, that essence cannot be manifested through teaching for it cannot be contained within the limits of any concept however universal. This angelic teaching concentrates on the divine works which are in God as in their cause, that is, with the plans of the divine architect, the ideas of God, and their execution. Naturally the superior angels possess those plans in a way most like the divine possession of them, being more perfect images of God and closer to the source of those ideas.
Perhaps the best example of this manifestation of truth among the angels would be a ray of light speeding from its source, broken up into its different colors here and there, but never stopping until it had reached the limits of creation. Just so the manifestation of a superior angel sweeps on, not merely to one angel but to all inferiors. accommodating itself to the mind of each, but never stopping until the lowest angel has been enlightened. The ray of angelic light cannot penetrate the will of any other angel; that is sacrosanct. Not even the angels can do more than coax the will of another to act, enticing it with a lovable thing, but never exerting that infallible allure that is proper to the Supreme Good itself.
But that angelic ray of light does sweep over all the intellects of the inferior angels, illuminating them, purifying them of all nescience, perfecting them, like the rays of the sun removing darkness, giving light and revealing the object of vision to the sight. Of course, the sweep of this ray is always from the top down, from the superior to the inferior; for only those who know more can teach, at least among the angels. Here there is no question of one being more expert in one line and less in another, a potential teacher of one, a necessary disciple of another: for in the angelic world, the superiors are always closer to God, they are pre-eminent in knowledge and sanctity and thus know more of all things than those beneath them.
There is no slightest stinginess in the doctrinal illumination of the angels. The superior tells all he knows, fully shares his superiority with all other angels in response to that urge of goodness to diffuse itself; this is a constant spiritual generation, an intellectual begetting that is absolutely unstinted. Nor is the superior any the worse for it; he remains superior for this greater knowledge is proper to him, these intellectual clothes fit him alone. All others can participate in that knowledge, but imperfectly, each in proportion to its intellectual ability. Eon after eon this angelic teaching goes on; with no night to interrupt, the angelic suns pour their rays in an eternal day for always there will be new things revealed about the world of created things, revelations that come first and best to the superior angels. Even after the world has passed and judgment has been pronounced, there will be a constant necessity for this illumination, the inferior minds will always need the comfort and manifestation of the superior angels, for this angelic learning is only participated, borrowed, as the air borrows a note from the throat of a singer and cannot maintain it without the constant support of the singing throat.
Speech among the angels
Not all angelic conversation is of this solemn doctrinal type; among the angels there is that intimately personal speech that runs gaily through the days of human life in the bright garments of chatter, gossip, hopes, dreams, wishes and experiences. For each angel has all that prices less treasure of richly original and mysteriously individual knowledge that is an inalienable possession of personality.
St. Thomas calls this type of angelic conversation “speech.” Both illumination and speech run none of the hazards and labors of voice production, enunciation and articulation, not to speak of lisping and stuttering, that do such strange things to human conversation. Both these types of angelic communication are accomplished effortlessly and with absolute accuracy by a simple act of the speaking angel. With the angels, the mere fact of a concept being directed to another assures the understanding of that concept.
We possess a concept in three distinct ways: habitually, as we hold to the multiplication table, not using it oftener than is necessary; actually, when we consider it here and now and, in a sense, talk to ourselves; finally, as ordered to another, as when we put an idea to work building a house, revealing a truth or unveiling the privacies of our personality. It is by no means enough for us to ordain a concept so the mind of another; a gag will keep our thoughts tightly imprisoned within ourselves, deaf ears are barriers that keep us circling the mind of another, indeed, even words themselves conspire against us, refusing to bear the heavy burden of intense concentration or clumsily spoiling the fine shadings of a thought too fragilely perfect to suffer transportation. Our concepts can be hidden from others either because we refuse to reveal them or because the very grossness of our bodies make ineffable the beauties that so captivate our minds; we are obliged to use external words and signs, and, often enough, the very externality is a positive impediment. It is precisely this obstacle that is missing in the angels.
How does the listening angel know it is being spoken to? To us this seems decidedly mysterious, though se have hints of the answer when, now and then, we feel someone’s eyes upon us, we grasp a thought before it has been uttered, a word before it has been formed. St. Thomas says, quite simply, that just as our senses are moved by sensible things, so the intellects of the angels are moved by intelligible things; just as sensible signs excite the external senses, so through concepts the mind of the angels can be excited to attention.
When we consider that one angel can talk to another across the whole width of heaven, it might seem that heaven Would indeed be an eavesdropper’s paradise. It is true that distance has no part to play in angelic conversation, for the intellectual operation of angels abstracts from time and place that so enclose matter, the impediments that cling to our conversation through its phantasms and external words. Yet, as a matter of fact, heaven would be hell for an eavesdropper; for, though all of heaven be between the two, one angel can talk to another in perfect privacy because the sole excitant to attention is the will of the speaker. In fact, no one need ever know that these two were talking at all; there is absolutely no way of plugging in on the conversation for it passes through no switchboard.
Extent and subject matter
In the case of illumination, it is the superior angels who do all the talking; but the same is by no means true of the intimately personal conversation of the angels. Interiors can talk to superiors, and have something to tell them, or even to God Himself; this speech, you will remember, depends on the will of the speaker and the personality that is proper to him alone. What does one of the lower angels say to God? Well, there is a colloquy with God that is uninterrupted, a lovers’ chat, a constant expression of admiration, adoration and awe at His excellence; now and then there will be an occasional conference as regards the things to be done in the ordering of the universe.
Angelic government in the universal order
The notion of hierarchy
The perfection of angelic communication, with its necessary exclusion of the misunderstanding and emotional prejudice that so mars human social life; indicates something of the perfection of the angelic principalities. These have been given the name of hierarchies, a name that is defined by St. Thomas as a “sacred principality” with the full implications of a prince, his subjects, the community or multitude directed by the prince to its end. God, the supreme prince, as the first cause, lord and governor, is prince of all the angels, as well as of all men and indeed, of all creatures. The universe itself is a principality whose prince is God, whose subjects are all creatures and whose common end is God.
But hierarchy is a sacred principality, that is, it is a term reserved for a community capable of participating in the holiness of God, capable of virtue and victory or of sin and defeat, a free moral community. Of these free moral creatures whose common prince is God not all belong to the same state within the great divine empire; the mode of government of each group follows the nature and activity of the subjects governed, for God is a very wise prince. The human hierarchy receives the government of God under sensible similitudes and is a separate state; the angelic hierarchy receives this divine direction in its intelligible purity, without the medium of sensible things.
The angelic hierarchy
Since government, political and social life follow the natures and activities of the subjects, particularly when the governor is wise, it follows immediately that the social and political life of the angels is vastly different from our own. It will involve no temperance or uplift societies, there will be no athletic clubs or sewing circles in it; plays, games, sports will all be ruled out. All of these presuppose bodies and the angels have no bodies. They have only that double operation of a purely intellectual nature, the type of operation that is God’s own, the operation of intellect and will. Whatever differences there are within that angelic state will have to be based on these operations.
Each angel is an individual species, since there is no way of multiplying individuals within a species that excludes the individuating principle of matter; yet we find three main lines of intellectual activity within the angelic state, three grades of universal understanding constituting the three angelic cities or the three hierarchies of angels. The first knows the reasons of things as they exist in the absolutely universal cause, God Himself; they stand in the vestibule of God. The second, with a less perfect, less universal knowledge, knows the reasons of created things as they exist in the most universal created causes. The third knows the reasons of things as dependent on their proper created causes.
Just as in any city not all men can be traffic policemen or stenographers, so among the angels there must be a distinction of offices and duties if general confusion is to be avoided. So in each of the three angelic cities, three different orders are distinguished. The first angelic city centers its activity on God Himself, contemplating the essences of things in God. Within it are the Seraphim, the highest of all the angels, who excel in their immediate union with God and their flaming love for him; from this fiery love comes their name. Next are the Cherubim with the plenitude of wisdom which their name indicates, excelling in the knowledge of the divine secrets, the wisdom of divine providence; they have a clear vision of the first operating virtue of the divine model. Last in this order are the Thrones who have a perfect knowledge of the end of all things and so of the disposition of the divine judgments. The Thrones have the note that is common to this whole order; the Cherubim retain this and add a special note; the Seraphim possess the note of both Thrones and Cherubim and add another still higher note. Indeed, this interrelation within each hierarchy is universally valid: the lowest order has the common note, which is possessed and surpassed by the immediate superior. The orders of this first hierarchy can be compared to men, all of whom are friends of a king: but one has the right to enter familiarly into the presence of the king: another knows the secrets of the king; the third is united to the king in a perpetual companionship.
The second angelic city, engaged with the universal created causes, has for its proper object the general ordering of means in view of the end and therefore demands the distinction of three orders. The first is made up of the Dominations to whom pertains the distinction of the things to be governed; then the Virtues to whom belongs the faculty of fulfilling the things to be done, imparting to general causes the necessary energy; and, finally, the Powers who are busy with the details of how things to be done or commanded are to be carried out in detail.
The work of the third angelic city is primarily one of execution for its object is the particular causes of created things. The leaders in this city, the Principalities who deal chiefly with the beginnings of actions, are the leaders in that angelic work of execution which consists of announcing divine things. Next are the Archangels whose work is the announcement of great things to men and the care of goods that are at the same time general and particular, such as the truths of faith and the divine cult. Finally come the Angels who announce the ordinary things and take care of the particular, individual goods.
Within each of these orders there are many, very many, individual angels. If we knew them perfectly we could distinguish all their proper actions to the last detail. But, knowing them only imperfectly and vaguely, we cannot know that each has this particular work and this particular place within his order, just as meeting a strange factory worker in an exclusively textile city, we can know no more about him than that he works in a mill. It is to be noted that the foundations of these orders are the different natural perfections of the different angels, perfections which we have seen are carried over into the realm of grace; consequently they endure even after there is no world to be directed to its proper end.
It would be a legitimate question here to ask how much of this doctrine on the angelic hierarchies is of faith. There is, in fact, very much of it that leaves no room for doubt. It is clearly of faith that the angels speak to one another and to God from the varied and numerous statements of such conversations in Scripture. The Council of Lateran has defined the existence of three hierarchies of angels in each of which there are three choirs; the names of these choirs are all contained in Holy Scripture. To this may be added the evidence from the liturgy of the Church: the Te Deum, the offices of the Guardian Angels, of Michael, Raphael, and so on. The detailed development and philosophical explanation are the work of St. Thomas, drawing upon the rich tradition of the Fathers, especially Gregory and Pseudo-Dionysius, the biblical functions of the angels and the philosophical tradition of movers of the heavenly spheres. He gives a new organic structure to the world of separate intelligences by his arrangement of them on the principle of lessening intellectual illumination, perfectly assigning their place in the universal order and keeping in perfect harmony the grades of participation of the divine perfection.
Government and order in hell
Necessity of harmony in hell
A treatise on the government of the spiritual world would be incomplete without a word on hell. For, of course there is government and some kind of order in hell; as a work of God, hell cannot escape the plans of the divine architect. There is a kind of perverse harmony in hell, a concord of wickedness such as we might find among thieves or murderers. It is a cooperation, not of friendship or social leanings, but of viciousness aimed at a common goal, not of achievement, but of destruction. The basis of that concord, that order of hell, is the natural gifts of the fallen angels, just as the natural gifts of the good angels make up the basis for their hierarchies. Natural gifts are not lost by sin precisely as sin, so a natural superiority and inferiority was carried over into the realm of sin by Lucifer and his followers. There Lucifer is supreme because he is naturally the most perfect of all the devils and because his sin was the greatest.
It cannot be much comfort to him, for there is no more potent cause of misery than the commission of evil, especially for a clear intelligence; to be a leader, to be supreme, in sin is at the same time to be the greatest in misery. What little satisfaction might be had from a sense of power is turned to ashes by the fact that the greatest of the devils is subject to the least of the good angels, for all order and dominance is originally in God and is participated by creatures in proportion to their propinquity to God. Indeed, often a little vinegar is added to the ashes as when, for instance, a mere man like the Curé of Ars is given complete superiority over the whole horde of hell.
Speech of devils
Conversation is not lacking in hell, though it is undoubtedly far from edifying; for the devils still have their angelic wills and concepts. There is no illumination, no teaching, in hell, and not only because the devils are so wholly evil that they give no help whatsoever to another; the fact is that illumination is always in reference to the order of the first cause and they are completely in disorder relative to that first cause. However, now and then, the good angels tell the devils some things that it may be necessary for them to know for the working out of the plans of divine providence.
The perfect social life of the angels is not to be attained by men this side of heaven; but that does not stop men from dreaming. Perhaps it is because we are such close kin of the angels that even a momentary consideration of their lives afflicts us with a traveller’s nostalgia; they seem like big brothers who have beaten us home by many a weary mile. We envy them a little, dream our dreams of homecoming, and try to make the shelter of the moment look something like the home at the end of the road That family yearning for perfection that drives men restlessly on has made itself felt no less strongly in his social life than in his individual life. Men have dreamed their dreams of the perfect society, put those dreams down on paper apologetically or belligerently, and tried, with an inevitable futility, to make the dreams come true within the walls of an earthly city.
It is not strange that some shadow of the angels should hover over those dreams and those gallantly conceived theories; the tragedy is that not more of the angelic pattern was woven into the plans; the stark fact is that all of the angelic prescription for utopia can never be filled by men. As a rule one or two aspects of the angelic society have been fastened on to the complete neglect of the rest. The community of goods among the angels, For example, has seemed a splendid ideal to men: that the wealthier should dispense all of their goods, unstintingly, constantly, joyously in a blaze of beneficence as life-giving and as dependable as the warm smile of a spring sun, that would make the ideal state among men. Or that the superiors should always be superior, that those who have most should continue to have it: that the more intelligent should always be rulers and the less intelligent always subject without a murmur of discontent — either of these would make for utopia among men.
Conclusion: A prescription for utopia
AS a matter of fact, the angelic utopia is not made up of one or the other of these factors. It is true that there is a complete community of goods, an unstinted generosity on the part of the superiors; but that community of goods does not involve a classless angelic society, that generosity on the part of the superiors in giving is perfectly matched by the generous subjection of the inferiors in receiving. In this society, superiority is measured rightly by propinquity to God; the greater are those who most closely image divine perfection in being, knowledge and love; the generous are those who have most to give and the goods they scatter so freely are not lost to the givers though they are received by others. Superiority here involves a responsibility of constant teaching that others might be helped, subjection involves a constant docility that help might be received; order is thus perfect and government a benignly indispensable help.
Place of man in the government of the spiritual world
That perfection has not yet been seen on earth; nor will it be seen, if for no other reason than that men are not angels but fallen men. The angelic hierarchy is, by its nature, distinctively different and more perfect than the human hierarchy; but it is not so different that the gap between the two cannot be spanned by a bridge of the supernatural. For in heaven, men will be like the angels and, indeed, will close up the ranks broken by the sin of the devils. The high dreams of men have roots deep in the plans of God; they are not to be pulled from the minds of men by disappointment, disillusionment or a failure so constant as to be habitual. Men will dream on; and, eventually, the dream will come true — and stay true.
Social life of heaven
However, the angelic doctors will have a teaching task of the first magnitude on their hands when men take over their part in the social life of heaven. We shall have much to learn, so much that we shall spend an eternity in the learning of it; not that we shall sit in absorbed silence drinking in knowledge while not daring to betray our ignorance by so much as an unguarded word. We shall have plenty to say and the angels will have plenty to learn; for each of us brings a mysteriously rich personality with us, a personality that yields to no explorer of truth but ourselves. In other words, the lines of communication between ourselves and the angels will be wide open; it would be neither human nor angelic if immediate and constant advantage were not taken of such an opportunity to get a word in.