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.