ANGELIC SAINTS AND SINNERS
(Q. 59-60; 62-62)
Sanctity and sin in an emotional world
OUR modern world has enthroned emotion as the ruler of life and day by day new subjects throng to the palace to be presented to life’s royalty. Some men make their obeisance to the brutally rough emotions that answer arguments by blows, that glory in butting against a tree instead of side-stepping it. and relax to the crunching of bones; others bow their heads to the squishy variety of emotion, the soft, deadly things that keep a man in a state of collapse before uncouth life.
Enthronement of emotion
This emotional surge has not been a purely popular outbreak incited by sensational journalism. It goes much deeper than that. In fact, from the intellectual beginnings of the modern era to our own day, it has come from the top down; it is the logical outcome of subjectivism in religion and rationalism in philosophy. Surely the ordinary run of men can, to some extent, be excused for accepting the distorted photograph of a purely emotional man. They have been led into this thing by their leaders; coaxed, bullied, laughed, argued, threatened into it. As a result, however innocent of his plight the individual may be, man today finds himself in the strangely inhuman world where sanctity and sin are obsolete words faintly recalling the time when religion was not a matter of feeling, conversion a kind of epileptic fit, salvation a matter of that good feeling that comes from digestive perfection. From the very existence of the words sanctity and sin, one gathers that once upon a time men did not know they were ruled by biological necessity, thought they were possessed of a free will that gave them command of their lives, that moral codes were not a societal fashion and that men were different from animals.
If the world were such as our moderns paint it, sanctity and sin would have no more place among men than they have among puppies or roses; for sanctity, like sin, is the fruit of a controlled appetite making its choice under the deliberate direction of one who is in command of his actions. That emotion plays a supreme role in the life below man is beyond question; but this life is below man. That emotion plays a large part in man’s life needs no demonstration; but that we should come to think of emotion pushing man, willy-nilly, from birth to death, almost defies explanation.
Perhaps it would not have happened, in spite of philosophy’s attempted assassination of the intellect, religion’s metamorphosis of faith from an intellectual virtue to a feeling, and the constant barrage of the sensible laid about the heart of a man, if we had held fast to the antidote for this over-familiarity with the material world. Unfortunately, we allowed ourselves to become strangers to that spiritual world of the angels, relegating it to the region of myths, fairy tales and poetry. As a result, we have concentrated on one side of our nature to the complete neglect of the other and become as lop-sided as slaves perpetually chained to the same side of a Roman galley.
Our nature entitles us to a welcome on both sides of the railroad tracks. We cannot spend all our time with the angels under penalty of becoming so queer that even the angels, for all their charity, will have nothing to do with us; we cannot throw in our lot with the animals without becoming so bestial as to frighten the beasts. The animal has a place in our lives, as has also the angelic; but neither the one nor the other can carry on a war of extermination without destroying itself. If the truth be told, we are nearer to the angels than to the beasts, for it is the spiritual within us that is in command; familiarity with the angels, consequently, carries none of the immediate threats involved in rooting with the animals.
Emotion and the appetites of man
Certainly the place of the emotions, the movements of his sense appetite, in man is made startlingly clear by a consideration of the appetite of the angels. For, of course, the angels have appetite. In an earlier chapter, treating of the will of God, it was pointed out that will is to intelligent beings what sense appetite is to the animals — the mainspring of action. Absolutely everything has within itself a tendency or inclination to its full perfection and to all that pertains to that perfection; an inclination that finds its expression either in straining to the attainment of that perfection or in enjoying that perfection once it is possessed. The general term for the faculty from which this inclination proceeds is appetite. Our long, intimate acquaintance with and respect for the world about us moves us courteously to extend the term to things incapable of knowledge and call it natural appetite. But the extension of the term is sheer courtesy; for these things do not move so much as they are moved, inexorably following the course laid out for them by the knowledge of God.
In the animals, this appetite is sense appetite; in intelligent creatures it is will. In both, this faculty of desire is completely blind. Nor is it to be pitied or sneered at in its blindness. It is supposed to be blind. Its work is not to know but to desire; if it does that, as it always does, we can ask no more of it. It makes no attempt to take over the work of the faculty of knowledge, it does not peer into the future with sightless eyes or plunge ahead before a guiding hand offers its absolutely necessary direction. Nor can it improve on the light thrown before it by the faculty of knowledge: a dog does not dig his paws deeper in dry weather as a plant does its roots. the dog simply looks for a shady spot; a man does not dig for bones or eat a special kind of grass, but he does seek for truth, for love and for happiness, a quest that never disturbs the contentment of a dog. In other words, the appetite of any creature is of the same caliber as its knowledge.
Appetite of the angels
When the creature in question is a complex combination of the material and spiritual, possessed of sensible and intellectual knowledge, as is man, there will, of course, be two appetites present: the sensible and the intellectual which is called will. The noise of battle within the household of his soul will not let a man seriously doubt the presence of these two appetites; for they get along much less equably than the jealous wives of a polygamous chieftain. When the creature in question has the splendid immateriality of an angel with its unadulterated intellectual knowledge, its appetite will be the intellectual appetite or will with no rival quibbling about its choices.
Its nature — free will
To say that the will of the angels is a free will is to say no more than must be said of will wherever it is found. A noisy child with a penchant for hammering the furniture may indeed turn out to be an excellent boiler maker when he grows up; but because he can see the impediments to pleasant chitchat involved in such a vocation, he can, if he likes, refuse to follow his natural bent. For intellectual knowledge can know supreme truth and thus open the way for the will to desire supreme goodness; but the intellect can also know particular truths and the reasons for their particularity, their limitations. Because of these limitations the will can and does accept or reject them, that is, the will is free. Not everyone who likes putting out fires becomes a fireman, quite possibly because one so heartily dislikes being doused with water in zero weather The point is that an intelligent creature. in the face of particular goods, can always choose because he can always see not only the goodness but also the particularity, the limitation, of that goodness.
Its distinction from nature and intellect
The angelic nature must definitely stay at home, eternally bound within its own limits; the angelic intellect is a hostess that sees all the world but only within the walls of its own house; while the angelic will is a visiting vagrant that wanders the length and breadth of the fields thrown open to it by angelic knowledge. The angelic intellect, like all intellects, is eternally at home, but in a home filled with a cosmopolitan group of guests, all of whom must follow the rules of the house; the angelic will goes out to the objects desired uniting itself to them. It is this characteristic of intellect and will that is so trenchantly expressed in the statement that an intelligent creature becomes what he desires but makes what he knows a part of himself. He can know muck without soiling the intellect, but he cannot desire it without smearing himself. Obviously, then, the free will of an angel is something quite distinct from the angelic nature and from the angelic intellect.
Its denial of emotion
While it is true that an angel can know and will, it is also unquestionably true that an angel cannot feel the excitement of racing blood, tragedy’s sudden stab in the heart; it cannot be carried outside of itself with anger, faint at the sight of a snake or be overwhelmed by a rush of sorrow. For there is no room in the angels for emotions in the sense of passions or feelings. The angels, you see, have no bodies; and these passions are distinctly sensible or animal, movements of the sense appetite.
Lest we rush to the conclusion that angels are cold, clammy, impersonal creatures, it would be well to remember that an angel’s joyous song heralded the Savior’s arrival in Bethlehem: that an angel shared the agony of Christ in the Garden — and comforted Him; that the archangel Gabriel minced no words in reply to Zachary’s disbelief of his message and did not hesitate to rap him sharply on the knuckles with that severe sentence, “thou shalt be dumb.” Yet it was this same severe angel who immediately appreciated Mary’s fear and surprise, and his first words were words of assurance to dispel that fear; the archangel Raphael was a matchmaker of the first order, smoothing the way for the seemingly impossible marriage of young Tobias. These are not the actions of living icebergs.
The doubt about the warmth of the angels, however, persists. We think a man or woman without feelings, as fishy-eyed as a gambler, has something missing, is somehow queer, inhuman. As a matter of fact, we are right: such people are queer, as queer as a man without a head, for something belonging to human nature is not there. Lack of emotion is not at all virtuous; it may be a misfortune, making a man a monstrosity; or it may well be a vice. For man has not only a soul, he also has a body; he is not only rational, he is also animal; he has an intellectual appetite, but he also has a sensitive appetite. The movement of that sense appetite towards sensible objects, coming from the imaginative picture of good or evil and involving a physical or corporal reaction, is ordinarily called emotion, feeling or passion. So, for example, an actress who throws herself into a part can actually produce the corporal changes that mark out the path along which the sense appetite is running — she can weep, blush, turn pale, tremble, gasp.
These passions, amoral in themselves, are of immense value to man. By their help a man can muster up the courage to ask for a raise in salary, by the simple trick, for instance, of getting himself angry enough; the atmosphere of a church or a few minutes on our knees can awaken the will’s desire to pray. These passions, in a word, react on the intellectual appetite, spur it into action or, being deliberately aroused by the will, complete the circle and make the action of our will that much more intense. Using these passions of ours, the cunning of God not infrequently coaxes us into greater spiritual activity by doling out sensible sweetness and consolation to His children, coddling them a little or bestowing a pat of encouragement and reward.
By reason of this intimate interaction between the will and the passions, these latter can also be an immense danger to a man. They can overwhelm the intellectual appetite and put a man at the mercy of the same motive power that dictates the actions of beasts; in opposition to the will they can terrify it into paralysis, weaken its action, cool its intensity to a vapid, lukewarm, nauseous thing. The men who succumb to the terror of persecution, the seduction of sin’s occasion, the respect of men, the despair of life are all living witnesses of the danger of passion out of control. On a milder scale, the steady death rate in good resolutions is eloquent testimony to the existence of a rival appetite which the will cannot regard lightly.
The love of the angels
Of course these sensible emotions are not in the angels. Angels have no bodies, so they can have no sense appetite, no imaginative pictures, no corporal reactions. But this does not mean they are cold, unloving and unlovable creatures. They have an intellectual appetite and its movement is as proportionately more perfect than ours as the angels themselves exceed us in perfection. That angelic appetite has also met with good and evil, with triumph and defeat. There is joy among the angels in heaven; and there is sorrow, hate and despair among the angels in hell. Some have desired great things and now delight in the possession of the objects of their desires; others have chosen rather the petty than the great and now are tormented by the possession of the objects of their desire. But these emotions of the angels are not physical movements of passion; they are something infinitely superior, something whose nature opens our eyes to some of the possibilities within ourselves — for we, too, have an intellectual appetite.
Its nature: necessary and elective
To understand something of those possibilities, and their limitations, we must see clearly the great difference between the knowledge and love of the angels and the knowledge and love proper to men. Quite naturally, and with no effort, we know some things perfectly; such things as that today is not yesterday, that we are not someone else, that happiness is the supreme value and so on. But we do not know all things naturally, easily, perfectly. Our love has the same split personality: some things we love naturally, necessarily; others we are free to embrace or reject, towards them we can be niggardly and cautious or recklessly generous. But the reason is not the same for this similar characteristic of our knowledge and our love. Our intellect sees valley after valley, but only after climbing the intervening hills; its imperfections are due precisely to the fact that it does have to climb hills and clamber down the other side. our will is like a woman who tries on hat after hat, finding none that does her justice; it grasps one after the other of the goods offered to its choice, not finding any one that includes all good, one that forces its choice on the will.
The angels, too, love their own good, their own goal, their own perfection naturally and necessarily; they cannot help themselves any more than we can. As in us, the angels’ natural and necessary love is the spring from which proceeds that free, deliberate love of other things; because somehow, in some way, these things are bound up with their goal, their perfection, their happiness. Thus, loving themselves naturally and necessarily, they love the same qualities in other angels, just as we love — the common human characteristics of human nature in other men. We can dislike a man because he is mean, unjust, successful, generous or virtuous; but it is completely impossible for us to hate a man because he is a man, because he has a soul or a mind. The same is true of the angels.
Like ourselves, the angels love God naturally and necessarily even more than they love themselves; for, loving their goal, their perfection, they are loving a similitude, an image of God. They are God’s, they belong to Him, as we do; naturally and necessarily they work back toward Him Who was their beginning. If they did not, there would exist a purely natural love in the angels that would be a perverted, twisted thing, loving to a greater degree something that was less lovable. Moreover, God Himself would be the author of this perverse love, as He is the author of nature; and this natural love would have to be destroyed by the supernatural love that was designed by God to perfect men and angels, the love that loves God above all things. Freely and with full choice, the angels love themselves, as we do; moreover, their love, like ours, extends to everything that is good. Their will, like our own, does not need to be coaxed out of doors; the only invitation necessary is a hint of goodness.
In all this there is a great similarity between angels and men; that similarity must not lead us to make the mistake of identifying angelic and human activities in the fields of knowledge and love. The similarity in love comes from the objects of that love; the angelic love in itself is something to make us gasp. In contrast to it, our passions seem like tottering steps of an infant compared to the smooth, consuming stride of a runner.
The love of the angels is not a spark slowly developing into a flame; it is an instantaneous bolt of lightning. The angel’s will moves as does its intellect, like a rapier thrust straight to the heart of goodness. This love does not last for a day or a year; it is a lightning bolt caught in mid-air in all its burning splendor — for an eternity. It cannot change, as ours does, by discovering unlovable characteristics in its loved one; it has all the knowledge from the start. An angel cannot fall in love with a face and then discover the face was false; it cannot become uninterested, disloyal, fluttering from one love to another. The angelic embrace cannot end. That love cannot be halfhearted, lukewarm, timid, cringing before obstacles. An angel does not fall into love; it plunges in with crushing force. This love is a drive not to be stopped by obstacles: it is a consuming fire devastatingly complete; it is a surrender that is eternally unconditional. It is the dream that is buried in every human heart, the closest approach to divine love in the created universe. Can an angel have joy, delight, sorrow, despair and hate? Ah yes; and to a degree that, like the divine, terrifies us.
When God looked at the work of creation and found it good, He might well have been concentrating His gaze on the angels. From the first moment of their creation they possessed perfect natural happiness. Their intellects were perfect, their knowledge complete; their appetites, following in the footsteps of this perfect knowledge, were also perfect and in perfect possession of their natural goods from the very beginning. Indeed this work was good; even a divine artist could stand back from this masterpiece smiling that quiet smile of a master surveying his perfect work. The angels were perfect.
But they were not perfect enough to satisfy the infinite generosity of God. There was still something that could be given to these creatures, a perfection above nature, a goal beyond the goal proper to angelic nature, a share in a life beyond the perfection of angelic life; they could still be raised to the height of supernatural happiness, to a share in the life of God, to an admission to the vision of God which is heaven.
Such a goal of love is not to be lightly had. It must be earned, earned by personal efforts. Such efforts, even when put forth by a nature as perfect as the angelic nature, ate utterly worthless of themselves; this goal is above nature and nothing nature can offer serves as a ladder to reach that end. The angels, too, needed grace, faith, hope, charity; the tools, that is, with which to carve out an eternal life with God. The tools were given to them from the first instant of their creation; but the goal had to be won by a use of those tools. Even of the angels it is true that divine happiness is not forced upon them; if they would live forever with God, it must be through their free choice.
The sin of the angels
This was the trial of the angels — the choice between life with God or without Him. This was their term of probation, their opportunity to make a success or a failure of their lives. The issue was soon decided, for the angelic choice moves with swift directness to its object never to relinquish it. The choice was made irrevocably, eternally. By one good act the angels merited heaven — some of them; and the issue of heaven or hell was closed forever as far as they were concerned.
The victorious angels, as they stepped into heaven, brought with them the fullness of their natural knowledge, losing nothing on the way. From that time on they were eternally incapable of sinning, not merely because of the unchangeable nature of their love, but because any appetite in possession of the infinite good is not to be lured away from that adequately satisfying lover by the fetching smiles of anything else. Nothing can be more attractive; everything else is only a participation, a mirroring of the beauties of that infinite goodness. This was the end of the angels, the final halt of the march to goodness and truth, the end of the road. From here on, what progress was made would be purely secondary, accidental, as inconsequential as a flower slipped into the lapel of a coat, and as absurdly pleasing as a totally unnecessary testimony of divine thoughtfulness.
The actual sin
It was a long road the angels travelled in an incredibly short time. In fact, it was much too long for some of the angels; not all reached the end of it. There is not only love in the angels, not only the sublime perfection of that love in its elevation to the supernatural plane; there is also the abuse of love which is sin. At first sight, it is difficult to see how an angel could sin. A man can stumble into sin when ignorance makes his vision defective; but there is no defect in the angel’s knowledge, An angel cannot be rushed into sin by a storm of passion, for it has no passions. There can be no question in the angels of the long, bitter discouraging battle against habit that a drunkard faces; for bad habits were certainly not infused by God and there were no preceding acts by which such habits could be built up. This was the angels’ first sin.
In a very real sense, it was difficult for the angels to sin. So difficult, in fact, that to the mind of St. Thomas (though not all theologians agree with him) it was completely impossible for the angels to sin in the purely natural order. The immediate, intrinsic and natural rule of morality for them was their own intellects; these were perfect and were perfectly followed by the will of the angels. If they had not been lifted to the supernatural order, they could not have sinned, could not have gone to hell; but then neither could they have gone to heaven. There would have been no angelic sinners; nor would there have been any angelic saints. That has always been the risk of the high goals; the low, level places are safer, so safe indeed as to be worthless. It has always been dangerous to make “reckless leaps into darkness with hands outstretched to a star.”
Even in the supernatural order, an angelic sin it a difficult business. Even there, no imperfection is possible in the angels preceding sin: no darkening of the intellect, no absence of knowledge, no refusal of the will to follow the intellect; the angels could not choose evil, thinking it good. But they could choose good evilly. True, that statement throws no glaring light on the mystery of the angels’ sin; but the truth that does dispel some of the darkness is wrapped up tightly in that brief statement. For while it is true that there could be no imperfection in the angels before sin, it is equally true that imperfection before sin was not necessary in order that the angels should turn away from God.
In treating of angelic knowledge, we saw that the angel received its full consignment of concepts at the very first moment of its life; but an angel, like a man, can consider only one concept at a time. What concept is considered at this precise moment is a matter to be decided entirely at the taste of the particular angel. It can consider this one, or that one, or none at all. In this precise power lies the key to the solution of the mysterious sin of the angels. In the concrete, it is not difficult to determine what sin the angels committed. They really had no such dazzling variety of evil as is displayed before the human tentative purchaser of evil. Only two sins were open to the angels, for only two sins directly appeal to spiritual nature: the sins of pride and envy. Moreover, envy could come about only as a consequent of pride. Concretely, then, the angelic sin could be no other than a sin of pride. How did that particular sin actually come about?
We have a rather accurate picture of the process if we can imagine the glamor girl of the year, looking her very best as she prepares to step out of her room, stopping, as she naturally would, for one last approving glance — and standing transfixed by her own beauty. So the angels, considering their own beauty and perfection, were enchanted. There they stopped, captivated refusing to let their minds consider the further supernatural end to which that lustrous natural beauty was ordered. In this sense they wished to be like God — nothing could be more beautiful, nothing more perfect, they would be sufficient to themselves, placing their happiness, their final end, in themselves to the scorn of the supernatural happiness which was the beatific vision. The splendor of the angelic beauty fascinated them: they refused to look beyond it to the infinite splendor of the vision of God.
The glamor girl’s rapt admiration of herself could hardly be morally serious. Certainly it would not be an eternal choice; eventually her ankles would get tired or her stomach would demand some food. But in the angels, this fascination was a deliberate mortal sin.
It was mortal for it involved turning away from God, rejecting the final end for the created good which was the angelic nature. Moreover, it was sinful. True, it is no imperfection in the angels not to consider this or that idea, generally speaking; just as it is no sin in a Catholic to refuse to wonder what day of the week this happens to be, But if the Catholic fears this may be Friday, and be refuses to wonder about it lest he discover that he must subsist that day on the hated fish, he sins. So, too, with the angels; faith them, it is an imperfection and a sin not to consider this or that idea when they are obliged to consider it. The whole thing was deliberate, that is free and finder control. Surely the consideration of their own beauty and the embrace of that beauty was entirely voluntary; nor was the refusal to consider the vision of God, or the lack of all such consideration, a forced, necessary thing. In the angels, as in us, the mind turns to this or that subject of consideration as we wish it to; the euphemistic phrase, “a wandering mind,” carries with it the pleasantly flattering, but completely false, implication that our mind is busy at one thing or another all the time. our imagination wanders, but our minds work at the task we assign them. In the angels, that is even more true. In this case, then, the angels directly and expressly willed the consideration of their own beauty; the lack of consideration of the vision of God was willed indirectly and implicitly. They put themselves in the position of a man who refuses to listen to his own faults and limitations because he is so heartily in love with himself.
It seems clear that this sin demanded no imperfection in the angels before the sin. This lack of consideration of the final end was not before the sin, it was a part of the sin. The sin began in this inconsideration and was consummated in the evil choice of themselves made by the angels. To put the whole thing in strict theological language, thereby showing mathematicians that they are not alone in their esoteric terminology, we could say that the inconsideration of the final end was first in the order of formal cause, since the judgment of reason is the rule of choice; but in the order of efficient and final cause, the angel’s evil choice of themselves was first since the free will moves the intellect to act.
The angels’ sin was a rebellion, a wild, hopeless, stupid rebellion. But it did have a splendid leader. Lucifer, who headed the rebellious hosts, was, in the natural order, the greatest of all the angels, good or bad. In other words, the most perfect nature that God has ever produced was the first to rebel against Him. Any of the other angels had only to look a step above to see a creature more beautiful than himself; but there were no creatures more beautiful than Lucifer. He was the most perfect image of the splendor of God; to realize he was only an image, he would have to look to God Himself. Pride was the sin of the angels, not weakness, ignorance or passion; and surely the greatest of the angels had the most reason for pride.
In the angelic world, the defection of Lucifer had a considerably greater effect than would the apostasy of a Pope in Christendom. He did not drag any of his fellows to hell with him by the scruff of their necks; but by way of example, suggestion or even, perhaps, persuasion he mustered quite an army. Scripture gives us an indication of this by declaring that all the devils are subject to Lucifer; according to St. Peter, speaking of sin, “by whom a man is overcome, of the same also is he a slave.” It would seem to be the order of divine justice, that we are subject in punishment to him to whose suggestion we have consented in sin; him whom we choose as a leader in evil we shall have for a master in punishment.
Number of angelic sinners
To assign a number to the legions of revolting angels is, of course, sheer guesswork. No tally sheet of the devils has been given us and there is no other way in which we could know how many followed Lucifer. Since, however, sin, of its very nature, is against intelligence and a violation of natural inclinations, it would be rash indeed to suppose that, in a nature so perfect it allowed for no mistakes, the majority fell into sin. It is much more probable that not as many of the angels sinned as conquered.
At any rate, these sinful angels, forever after known as devils, had committed supernatural suicide. They were, from then on, supernaturally dead, as helpless to climb back to the heights of the supernatural as a dead man is to scramble out of his grave. They had thrown away that participation of divine life which is sanctifying grace and were, henceforth, incapable of producing any work worthy of heaven. Their intellects were stripped of all that supernatural affective knowledge, such as would produce love; the gift of wisdom had been tossed aside; and the speculative intellectual knowledge that might have come to them by future revelations was cut down to a dim, vague light. Indeed, from then on they would receive only such knowledge as was necessary for the working out of the divine plans; even such knowledge would be, for them, a suspect, torturing, uncertain thing stripped of the infallible certitude that comes from the supernatural virtue of faith.
For all that, they were a splendid lot as they trooped from heaven. Sin, of itself, does not destroy the integrity of nature as rebellion destroys the integrity of an empire; and theirs was a splendid nature. Their intellects retained the full perfection of natural knowledge, the complete freedom from the impediments of ignorance and passion. Their wills were still the splendid instrument of desire which recognized no impediment to its attainment and no solvent of its embrace. But these splendid wills were forever confirmed in sin. The devils had no opportunity to repent, no second chance to remedy an initial mistake. In the first place, such a second chance depended, in them as in us, on the purely free gift of divine grace; of themselves they were helpless. But over and above that supernatural helplessness, repentance is naturally impossible to the angels. An angel cannot turn back. The act of its will, like that of its intellect, is one swift, eternally enduring act. Whether it be to good or to bad, the angel must stand forever committed to its first choice, eternally loyal even though that loyalty be to the standards of hell.
The punishment of the sin
Such inescapable loyalty brings no joy to the devils. There is sorrow in hell, penetrating, despairing sorrow proportionate to the great joy of which the brilliant wills of the devils were capable. Their wills can and do resist the things that are in place of the things that might have been; the salvation of souls, the joy of the blessed, their own misery in hell are constant sources of unceasing sorrow. In fact, if this sorrow were not in the devils, it would be absurd to speak of their punishment, for punishment means, essentially, something against the will, something undergone with regret. But, of course, there is no physical pain, no passion of sorrow in the devils; horns, tails, pitchforks and leering grins are no part of the diabolic equipment. These are, after all, angels; and angels are purely spiritual beings.
The instant their sin was committed, the devils were hurled into hell, the place of their eternal punishment. Evidently the fires prepared for them there could not physically torture them; a spiritual nature cannot be made to sizzle over a fire. Yet this fire can, supernaturally, be a real punishment; if, for example, it was endowed with the supernatural power of limiting the activity of a spiritual nature (as Thomas thought), it would place the particular devil in somewhat the same humiliating position of a strong adult confined in a baby’s play-pen. From time to time, some devils are allowed to wander the world for the exercise of human virtue, itself a humiliating and infuriating occupation; though there are some who have never been outside the gates of hell, as there are angels who have never left heaven. Whether in hell or on this earth, every devil carries the essence of hell with him — the despairing knowledge that all is lost forever. It may be that the fire of hell accompanies these wandering devils to humiliate their proud power, or perhaps it is only the humiliating thought, that they must return to that infantile enclosure which is forever in their minds.
Human nature seen in the light of angelic saints and sinners
This is the field of angelic love: the stupendous natural beauty and power of it, the heights to which it climbed and the depths to which it plunged; ringing through every instant of it is that mysterious, somehow terrifying note of forever, of eternity. This is the race to which we are kin. This is the love upon which ours is modelled; for we, too, have an intellectual appetite, a will capable of these heights, of these depths, and for an eternity.
Potentialities for good
Because of that will of ours, we too can attain to the beauty of that angelic vision that was too much for the pride of the angels, so dazzling is it; we can go this far and further, to the heights which some of the angels did not climb to the vision of the eternal splendor, the life of God Himself. Our love, too, is capable of just such loyalty, plot such wholehearted surrender. In fact, it is only in proportion to our approach to this love of a spiritual nature that we are worthy of our own immortal souls. This is the love that can and must dominate the emotions, the passions, that we have in common with the animals. This is the love that is betrayed by the emotionalism of our day. For, in a sense, we can go down a bit lower than the angels we can not only lose God, we can do what the greatest devil cannot, we can give full rein to emotion and put ourselves on a level with the beasts.
Consequences in men of angelic virtue and sin
Familiarity with this love of the angels, giving, as it does, a knowledge of our unsounded potentialities for good and evil, is a source of virtues that are strangers to a world of emotion. For it brings a man face to face with the truth about himself. In the face of that truth he may well be humble. Emotion, uncontrolled passion, is not humble but greedy, self-centered and, strangely, satisfied only with its own destruction. It is good to realize, when we stride along .n the pride of life, conscious of our strength and bolstered up, perhaps, by a long escape from sin, that the greatest of the angels fell. It is a distinct deterrent to the rash inclination to flirt with the occasion of sin to know that, without such obstacles as the passions present to reason and will, the most perfect nature God ever made was plunged into hell.
Knowing the truth of himself and the angels, a man might well cultivate a healthy fear. For indeed devils are not mere myths. They are terrible realities; they are enemies with natures intact in their superiority and perfection, on fire with a hatred of God and all that smacks of God. Their very hate drives them on to focus their splendid intelligence on the destruction of God’s kingdom on earth, His friendship in our hearts and our eternal life with Him. Our salvation may well be worked out in fear and trembling.
Yet the truth about himself makes no snivelling coward of a man. We are of the race of the angels. Our lives, our love are not mere biological accidents, individually of no importance. Like that of the angels, our life and our love can escape corruption, dimming of activity, the rusty wearing down and weary creaking of a last moment of life. We are above the common, the ordinary, the ephemeral; we are of a long line of spiritual nobility. Our name is one to be kept honorable; for, like the angels, we must live with that name forever.