The angelic multitude

Thomas explains the multitude of the angels by the principle that God creates higher things in greater numbers than lower things. The premise seems odd: doesn’t it force the absurdity that, since men are greater than a single human cell, there are more cells than humans? Or since humans are a higher species than bacteria, there are more humans than bacteria? Here is a commentary on Thomas’s argument:

1.) God cannot help manifesting his glory in all he does. Once he chooses to create a multitude, he can’t help but make the multitude of things manifest his excellence.

2.) The excellence of any maker is not manifest by making many individual things different in number, but many things of different types or species. If you couldn’t help but manifest how good you were at barbeque, you wouldn’t make the same thing over and over again (pulled pork, say) but pulled pork, brisket, sausage, ribs, etc. Excellence is manifest in the diversity of types or species.

3.) All created species are somewhere on the hierarchy between divine pure act and the pure potency of prime matter.

4.) What is closer to prime matter is more homogeneous, uniform, etc. it is less differentiated, and so fewer species suffice to manifest the divine excellence. As species get closer to God, it takes more species to manifest the divine excellence. So there must be more angelic species than material species. How many more?

5.)  Material species are immeasurably more like each other than the angelic, as all have a principle of pure homogeneity within them. So the angelic species are immeasurably more numerous than material species. Angels are comparable to material things, as each has potency, but angelic species are immeasurably more unique and distinct, the material immeasurably more homogeneous, as the material things have an intrinsic principle of homogeneity in them.

6.) But the merely material species of living beings on planet earth are themselves are tremendously numerous: if one confines himself to just species now existing, there are between 8-100 million of them, and these represent an extraordinarily small percentage of all species, perhaps only 0.1% (most species are now extinct, or perhaps even yet to arise.) One needs to add to this number all species of immaterial things: elements, star types, galaxy types, molecules, and perhaps even the different types of possible sentences, cells, etc.

7.) The angelic multitude should dwarf this immensity of all species of all material beings over time. If all the species described in (6) were pebbles in your hand, the angels are as if the mountain range, the whole planet, the dwarf star… whole physical universe.

8.) This is why every vision of the angelic host (over which God is dominus deus sabaoth) leaves the prophet speaking the largest number he can say repeated over and over: Daniel 7:10, Revelation 5: 11, Psalm 68 :17, etc.

%d bloggers like this: