Philosophical Skeleton Keys: More on Angels

In a recent essay, I suggested that the angels are the concrete archetypes of the Platonic Forms. This in response to a few Ockhamian challenges to Plato regarding the Forms that I there adduced:

What’s the Platonic Realm, for Heaven’s sake? Where is it? How does it interact with our own? If it does interact with our own, then isn’t it really integral with our own? If so, then what sets the Forms apart from their contingent instantiations here below? What does eternity have to do with creaturity?

… If [the Platonic Realm is concrete], and therefore ineluctably particular, then how is it universally and archetypally Formal?

Well, OK. Stipulating to the notion that the angels are the concrete archetypes of the Forms, how does that help us answer those questions?

In answering such questions, sometimes it will help us to treat the Forms as angels, and sometimes to treat the angels as Forms.

Let’s take the Form of Triangularity, or T. Where is the world that the Angel T lives in?

The question is ill made. The Angel T lives in all worlds, and in all possible states of mundane affairs. This is why God had to make the angels first of all. You need the angels in order to generate anything else; must have the real Form of T before you can get any t that participates T. Put another way: T must be concretely real in order for anything to reckon what it is like to be triangular, and so then go ahead and be triangular.

Say that you found yourself in a featureless landscape, totally flat: no triangles, or even any angles, anywhere (never mind that the line of the horizon of that landscape describes an angle of 180º; or that the waves of the light by which you see it describe translated angles (i.e.: never mind the ubiquity even in that flat “featureless” landscape of angles, and so of triangularity (triangles are implicit in angles, as 3 is implicit in 2))). Could a triangle appear in such a place? Sure. Scribe a triangle in the dirt with yoiur toe, or even just think of a triangle, and T will then have appeared in the landscape. Whence? Obviously T had to have been there beforehand, so that you could then scribe the triangle with your toe, or think of T. T had to have been implicit in that landscape all along, in order for you to go ahead and make it explicit – to express and so instantiate it.

Like God, then, T is ubiquitous. When he is called, T comes instantaneously – i.e., he instantiates himself locally – because *he is already there.* The angels move as fast as thought because they are the very media of thought; thought is a play of angels – of Forms – on the dancing ground of the mind.

The ubiquity of angels comes along as a package deal with their aeviternity. An aeviternal being is a creature that is changeless. Angels are aeviternal because the Forms of which they are the permanent archetypal concrete instantiations are changeless. When we say that the angels are aeviternal, we mean in part that, as the forecondition of worlds as such, they are not themselves essentially mundane. They are neither of nor in any particular world (we Christians are in this world, but not of it; the angels are not even in this world; rather, the world is in them – swims in them, as it were a fish in water; the fish does not notice that he is mostly made of the water in which he swims, and that he does not at all notice; we do not notice that we are mostly made of the angels, whom we do not notice). So are angels neither spatial nor temporal. Space and time do not pertain to them, except insofar as they reckon and understand and respond to us mundane creatures (that angels are transmundane does not mean that they cannot understand our worldly predicaments – this, in rather the way that understanding of calculus does not eliminate understanding of arithmetic, but rather deepens it).

So they are not located anywhere in particular. But, taken in concert with their concrete actuality, this means that they are everywhere in particular. Likewise – to put the same thing differently – they are not to be found at any particular time; so that they are to be found at every time.

The angels were created, and so (unlike their Creator) had a beginning. But they were not created at a particular time; for, they are a forecondition of time.

Think of that, now. Saint Michael himself might at any moment appear before you, as solid as swords; aye, as himself the very solidity and sharpness of swords, all swords, swords as such, himself a two edged sword. Indeed, he might, if you would pray him do so, invigorate you with his own martial spirit. Call upon him, then! What; afraid? Well might you be.

I certainly am.

Anyway; back to philosophy.

To ask where the angels are is then to engage in ill thought. I mean this literally. It is to mistake their nature radically. And to err radically about the nature of things just is to be ill, in mind and then eventually in body.

Ideas have consequences; for, consequences are nothing more than ideas enacted and then redounded. To err in thought is to err in deed; and, to suffer thereat.

To ask where the angels are is to misconstrue them, and aye to belittle them. And the belittlement of angels is bad policy. You don’t want to mess with Mother Nature, or, God forbid, get her wrong – or, what is much worse, get on her wrong side. So likewise with any other angel. Where angels fear to tread, so should we.

This is yet another reason that philosophy is important. It is yet another reason that it is critical to get clear on our terms, and to deploy them properly, and aptly, as true philosophy is wont to do; so that philosophical etiquette and attention to careful distinctions and intellectual propriety and discipline are *terrifically important.* To mess about with terms is after all to mess about with their proper denotations; with, i.e., those beings whom they denote.

Nominalism says those beings do not exist. All other systems of thought whatever insist (implicitly, and whether or not they know or admit it) that they do; for, to say that nominalism is false *just is* to say that angels – Forms – are concretely real. Nominalism is autophagous, ergo not even wrong. So, all those other systems of thought that muster under the banner of realism are right, somehow or other; at least, in their realism.

And realism says, just (in one way or another): Ideas are Real. They are concretes.

This is to say that the Ideas move, and act (for, whatever is concretely real effects); and thus that they can act upon us.

Mess about with terms inaptly, then, and you stand in danger of calling down upon yourself the imps of Hell – or what may to you be worse, the archangels of Heaven. Be ware then. Pray carefully, and properly. Take no Name in vain. For, to do so is to step toward the verge of the Abyss.

This is why traditional religion and mysticism have always cast a jaundiced eye upon mere theology, or a fortiori upon philosophy unbaptized.

It is also why true philosophy has always rightly impugned and condemned false and sloppy religion; which is to say, wrong religion.

Both impulses are needful.

The priests and the monks stand ever in apposition; yet both are needed, for the episcopacy. They do not rightly stand in opposition. So ever have the greatest philosophers been mystics; and vice versa.

Where are the angels, then? Right here, and right now. Whatever you thought of, just now? You thought of angels, and could do so only because they stood ready to your thought, as its forecondition and constraint and order.


What about the Heavens? Are not the angels there? Yes; just as they are in all worlds; except that in his proper heaven, an angel such as T is incorporated absolutely. Yet an angel is not in or of even his own proper heaven; rather, again, that heaven is in and of him.

As the angels are not in this world, but vice versa, so each heaven encloses subsidiary heavenly worlds, some of which as Fallen are not so nice, nor so real. In such subsidiary worlds, their supersidiary angels are incorporate solutely.

9 thoughts on “Philosophical Skeleton Keys: More on Angels

  1. Pingback: Philosophical Skeleton Keys: More on Angels | @the_arv

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  3. Angels are supposed to be persons–intellects with will.
    Forms aren’t. Triangularity isn’t a person. Form of a horse, even form of a man isn’t a person.

    • I agree of course that it is difficult for us to conceive of the form of man or a fortiori of triangularity as a person. Yet Truth is a Person. The Formal Order of Being – the Logos – is a Person. Death is an angel (or, actually, one of several angels, depending on the sort of death one is talking about). Falsehood is a spirit. Wisdom, Compassion, Understanding, Might, Knowledge, Counsel, and Awe are all angels.

      • Plato’s description, necessarily inadequate, of the Absolute Beauty in the Symposium hints at a living presence intelligible but not perceptible which makes possible perceptibly beautiful things. Hegel’s implication in his Lectures on Aesthetics that we should address the work of art as though it was a person chimes with the Platonic description. The work of art acquires its beauty by participating in an idea, which is to say, in a living presence.

      • “… a living presence intelligible but not perceptible.” Exactly.

        Wherever there is an integrity that, were its parts removed or unjustly rearranged, would suffer some destruction, there is an actual entity that partakes an angelic form. Rearrange a heap and nothing has been destroyed. Rearrange a true work of true art, and it’s a different story. Here perhaps lies a criterion for distinguishing whether or not a modern abstract work of “art” is in fact a work of art: is anything ruined by its rearrangement? If so, it is a true work of art. Moreover, especially: is its ruination evaluated – felt viscerally – as an abomination, or at least a regrettable shame? If so, then not only is it a work of true art, but it is a *good* work of true art.

        Some places then are actual entities, while others are not. Places that can be ruined are actual things; places that cannot, not. The former have spirits, that may infuse us when we enter into them. Going to them, and opening ourselves to them, we enter into their lives, and they into ours. This is why there are tourist destinations, places that people want particularly to go.

        Then too there are angels of literary characters. There is a Form of Gandalf, that Tolkien invoked when he wrote of that elf. So is there an angel of Gandalf. And the life of that angel informs and infuses its instantiations, whether in a work of fiction or in a work of faction. The angel of Gandalf constrained what Tolkien could credibly say of him – could rightly, justly say of him. So is it that authors regularly report that their characters take on a life of their own, to such a degree that they find themselves taking dictation rather than creating.

        As there is a form of Gandalf, that makes us feel a certain good and happy way when we encounter him, so then certainly is there a form of Sauron, who makes us ache with dread and horror.

        So likewise then also did Mozart and Byrd find that entire musical compositions sprang living and fully armored from their foreheads, all at once, so that they had to hurry to record the specifications of their appearances, that others might invoke, hear, and so know of them. Their musical works were formal integrities, that, if inaptly rearranged or evoked, would be ruined, wounded. A performance of Byrd’s 3 Part Mass then is literally an appearance in the Cathedral of the angel of that work of worship.

        A musical score then, or a book, are as it were spells that invoke and evoke angels, or demons. And there is a Spell that is so Good that it is best of all spells. As Aristotle was to Aquinas simply “The Philosopher,” or Paul “The Apostle,” that spell to us best of all is just “The Gospel.”

      • “There is a Form of Gandalf, that Tolkien invoked when he wrote of that elf.”

        So was Tolkien predestined to create Gandalf or perhaps God, knowing from all eternity that Tolkien would create Gandalf decided to create the Form of Gandalf–before the creation of the world?

      • Whether the instantiation of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings was predetermined is not pertinent. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t (Christianity inclines to the latter). Either way, the Form of Gandalf had to have been present eminently in God eternally if there were ever to have been such a thing as Gandalf, either in a real world or in the fiction of a real world. However a thing happens, or could happen, we can be sure that if it could happen, the possibility that it might eventually happen had to have been a possibility from all eternity.

        Obviously it has been possible from all eternity for Tolkien to write of Gandalf, or Tolkien could never have written of Gandalf, or even conceived of him. Then that Tolkien wrote of Gandalf does not mean that Tolkien *created* the Form of Gandalf. If the Form of Gandalf is eternal, as it must be, then it is, precisely, *not created,* but *eternal.* For, what is eternal does not come to be.

        It is, then, not the Form of Gandalf per se, but the concrete instantiations of that Form, that are created. The angel of the Form of Gandalf, then – if such there be – is created, and thus, not eternal, but aeviternal.

        When Tolkien wrote of Gandalf, then, he partook of the eternal Form of Gandalf: referred to it, invoked it, denoted it. We do the same thing when we read of Gandalf. In no other way might we understand what “Gandalf” means.

  4. Pingback: Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Yet More on Angels – The Orthosphere


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