Some Teachings from Thomas Aquinas on the Angels

We have been meditating on angels of late because, ever since the January 6th commission began its hearings we have been exposed to very dark messages about America and about the unraveling of democracy in our time the world over.  The same is true of the SCOTUS debacle that unravels respect for law and the courts.

MSNBC Legal Correspondent Ari Melber joins The Nation’s Joan Walsh and Linda Greenhouse, to discuss the legitimacy of the Supreme Court following its reversal of Roe v Wade.

Hildegard teaches that lies and untruths, greed and violence, actually untie the golden ropes of creation and community and constitute the anti-Christ at work and paints a picture of this reality. 

We have been meditating on the 7th chakra and humanity’s capacity to be bearers of great light which is meant to link up with other light beings including our ancestors and our fellow builders of the “beloved community” here on earth.  And also with those light beings we call angels or spirits.  This may help to balance the many dark headlines in the news today.

The Madonna della Vallicella Adored by Seraphim and Cherubim by Peter Paul Rubens, 1608. Wikimedia Commons.

And so, having spent some time with our Allies including ancestors and other human community builders on the earth today, we are also meditating on those Allies whom we call angels.  Hildegard, as we have seen, has a lot to teach us about angels; and so does Thomas Aquinas.

Aquinas emphasizes the relationship of angels to the cosmos or “the heavens.”  This is important for us to hear since in the modern era, when humanity was so in love with itself (Pope Francis calls it our “narcissism” as a species), angels were often reduced to bare bottom babies and sentimentalized and only about helping humans as individuals. 

In contrast, Aquinas writes that the place of the angels in the scale of spiritual being corresponds to that of the heavenly bodies in the corporeal word; thus Dionysius calls them heavenly minds.  Isaiah talks about an army of celestial wonders such as the heavens, the stars and angels.

Archangel Michael, Sacre Coeur Basilica, Paris, France. Detail of photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash.

This also links angels to the first chakra which is about the cosmos and the earth (its shadow side is Arrogance and Acedia).

Sheldrake recognizes guardian angels as just “a tiny part of the creative intelligence in the cosmos” and we need to take into account the role of the angels in galaxies, stars, “and the entire process of cosmic evolution.”  Angels deal with events “of vast cosmological importance and scope.” 

He points out that modern science is itself based on the idea “that the universe is governed by invisible principles, the laws of nature” and these are not physical things but “invisible governing principles” and “abstract mathematical equations rather than living minds with creative power.”  They are “totally disembodied” and “extremely arid, limited, and narrow.”  They are lacking in love and joy.

See Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, pp. 122-126.  

Adapted from Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake, The Physics of Angels, pp. 78-80.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “Angels Descending.” Photo by KayYen on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

How does it shake up your understanding of angels and the cosmos to hear that angels are not just human guides but dealing with events “of vast cosmological importance and scope”?

Recommended Reading

Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen

An introduction to the life and work of Hildegard of Bingen, Illuminations reveals the life and teachings of one of the greatest female artists and intellectuals of the Western Mystical Tradition.  At the age of 42, she began to have visions; these were captured as 36 illuminations–24 of which are recorded in this book along with her commentaries on them.
“If one person deserves credit for the great Hildegard renaissance in our time, it is Matthew Fox.”  – Dr Mary Ford-Grabowsky, author of Sacred Voices.

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25 thoughts on “Some Teachings from Thomas Aquinas on the Angels”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today we look at angles again; this time from Aquinas’ perspective. And our Query for Contemplation is: “How does it shake up your understanding of angels and the cosmos to hear that angels are not just human guides, but dealing with events ‘of vast cosmological importance and scope’?” The fact that angels are not just chubby little cherubs that are here for our help alone, gives me hope when Aquinas tells us that the place of the angels in the scale of spiritual being, corresponds to that of the heavenly bodies in the corporeal word; thus Dionysius calls them heavenly minds. Isaiah talks about an army of celestial wonders such as the heavens, the stars and angels. Sheldrake however says: “modern science is itself based on the idea ‘that the universe is governed by invisible principles, the laws of nature’ and these are not physical things but ‘invisible governing principles’ and ‘abstract mathematical equations rather than living minds with creative power.'”

    P. S. At the end of the evening last night I wrote concerning Opus Dei: Even though they are doubtless a true source of the attack on women’s bodies and choices, Pope Paul VI wrote in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae (back in the 60s), which put a ban on contraceptives for all Catholics. This in effect makes the Pope the one who is choosing for his people what they must do with their own bodies. It is not up to his people’s choice. Its not a matter of being Pro-Choice but being Pro-Obedience. And may the angels help us on this one !!!

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      Too bad about Sheldrake’s lack of faith and wonder ~ or maybe he’s on the right track, and will reach faith and wonder in his own way. I can only guess about these very important things…

      1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
        Richard Reich-Kuykendall

        Joyful, I can personally assure you, having read some of Sheldrake’s books, and having heard his story, that he is truly a person of faith and wonder, as well as of science. The two are not mutually exclusive…

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      Richard, that is a good point and true of all papal pronouncements, from my non-Catholic point of view. You and Matthew probably know better than I, but I have read the abortion was not always such an issue and that the beginning of life was not always from conception. May the angels (of whom I remain skeptical, though what’s the harm in believing) indeed help us!

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    Until Trump came along, it was thought that a presidential administration couldn’t be any more corrupt than that of Nixon. Likewise, until the overturning of Roe, it was thought they’re couldn’t have been a more incongruent, (vs. the public’s will) piece of legislation passed other than the Volstead Act (Prohibition) of 1919, banning the use of alcohol. That act could not successfully be enforced at the state and local levels, broke down and was repealed after a relatively short-lived span of 13 years. The same will happen with the ‘Abortion Prohibition Act’ of 2022. For awhile, it will make warranted abortions more difficult to obtain, but they will increasingly occur, and this anti-Roe debacle will become harder and harder to enforce at state and local levels. This will be owing to the sheer will and persistence “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Such will occur until abortion prohibition, like alcohol prohibition, is repealed. Thanks mostly to the better angels of human nature overcoming the powerfully dark and clueless will of the power elite, out of synch not only with the people’s will, but with the Spirit of the universe. One can only defy, cross and break higher universal laws for a season, at best, before they boomerang on the transgressors. Divine law will eventually prevail. The wheels of divinity and justice turn slowly in human affairs, but they grind ever so fine.

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      I like your comment, Joe ~ It resonates with my sense that the people I meet are so often good in so many ways, and that the Universe, Creation, is made of Love. It doesn’t seem that we need to win this crazy 21st c. war with our fists, but with our hearts. Thank you for sharing your considered confidence.

    2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Joe, What a insightful comparison, and I think you are right in all that you have said in this comment!

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    Linda Mary Montano

    My uncles book THE SIN OF THE ANGELS. by Edward J Montano on Amazon is a theologically astute study of Aquinas’s writing about the angels.

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    Thank you Matthew for reminding us that there are many Angels with many important roles in our Cosmos, besides the traditional understanding of only the ones in our earthly dimension as personal spirit guides, as important and as needed as that may still be on our difficult and challenging earthly spiritual journeys. The many important loving and intelligent Angels with their responsibilities in the Cosmos reminds us that our eternal souls are also an important and sacred part of a spiritual multidimensional, multiverse Cosmos… This is very humbling, to say the least, yet we should also feel very sacred and glorified to know that our unique eternal souls were created and Loved eternally on our spiritual journeys with-in All ongoing co-Creation~Evolution, our Beloved Cosmic Christ Consciousness, including the Angels and other light spirit beings, by our Loving Mysterious Personal Source~Creator In the Cosmos and Beyond, Immanent and Transcendent….

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    I don’t know much about Thomas Aquinas, but I just read this in Elizabeth Lesser’s book Cassandra Speaks,” From St. Thomas Aquinas: as regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; wild production of women comes from a defect in the active force.“

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      Thank you Kate.
      It is important to note that, while acknowledging all of his mystic greatness, we can’t deny that Aquinas’s view of women was fundamentally deplorable, a view he never rescinded as far as I know. As I understand it, he carried forward this view from Aristotle. This view seems to have been bred in the bone of many males. The fact is that every fetus is female for the first six weeks after which a burst of testosterone is injected into a portion of fetuses which then evolve as male. Perhaps it is the toxic/uber/male that is the one that is ‘misbegotten.’ My understanding is that without two+ genders we could not have evolved diversity. And history shows that human beings in general have great difficulty adjusting to diversity. We must continue to work to fulfill the New Testament dream that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

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          And here is he on the Jews: “….as the laws say, the Jews by reason of their fault are sentenced to perpetual servitude..” But Jewish scholars also give him credit for adopting many of the Jewish religious and philosophical writings. His misogyny and anti-semitism are just examples of the reasons it is not a good idea to idolize any human being, as we are all extremely fallible.

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        In essence and depth (or Spirit) we are all one. The whole earth is one in it, filled with its glory. What is this “it,” this glory, this divine matrix (milieu), this Spirit in which all things consist, are one, and are held together? Although you’d be technically correct, its not enough to say that this “it” is God. Not these days. No, more is expected of us. “It” must be something essentially invisible that can be converted to mass and matter, and shaped into multiple forms; something both convertible and transformable back into itself again. Whatever “it” is, substantively, we are ALWAYS one with it, one in it, and one with all things in it. Yet we are only YRULU one with it when, deeply immersed, we have chaste contact with it; CONSCIOUS contact with what is and has always been the SAME in all things. That unevolved universal element which gives all things life and awareness and being. Only that dissolves the separation consciousness that divides the one into the many (tribes, tongues and nations) that otherwise obscure it.

    2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Kate, You are very observant! and I have Lesser’s book too! Aquinas was a man of his time, and at that time they had no science to be able to tell them that both the woman and the man had a part in procreation. Instead, they believed that it was the man’s seed that made a child and the woman was just the soil that the seed had to be planted in. That is why women were called “barren” who could not bear children–because their soil was barren like the desert.

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    Acknowledging and seeking help from the “messengers” of Divine LOVE in uncertain times is a wise practice. This too is an emptying of our monkey mind as we let it drop down into our heart. }:- a.m.

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    Jeanette Metler

    With regards to the MSNBC video clip within todays DM, implying that the Supreme Court is an unbiased governing body… is a falisy. Reason being, is that it is made up of human beings whom each have beliefs, which both consciously and unconsciously create filters and veils of perception and understanding, regardless of intentions and motivations. We humans see all things dimly, through a darkened lens… whether we care to accept and admit this truth, is irrelevant to this being a reality within the human condition. Beliefs are relevant to both conscious and unconscious awareness… which evolves over time… and human history reflects this reality.

    However according to leaked documents, some individuals within the Supreme Court carry within their beliefs, a 17th century bias of consciousness… which is being enforcefully and unlawfully projected onto our present century. This draconian bias… is attempting to unify the States of America, and the Judicial Institution, with manmade Religion… and wrapping this package with a bow labeled The Constitution. This Pandora Box, then has a little note attached to it… “Let’s Make America Great Again”, enticing all to open it.

    With regards to responding to the other queries in today’s DM… and the references to the governing intelligent invisible spiritual bodies… co-creating the existence of all life.. the following words from scripture, which I’ve paraphrased, keep echoing through the canyon of my thoughts… “Our faith and hope may fail, but the true nature and laws of Divine Love remains.” These words, beyond my ability to fully comprehend, in a mysterious kind of way, do offer my soul, a sense of comfort, and consolation… that there is something much bigger than humanity… a mystery… that intelligently, imaginatively, intuitively and creatively sustains and maintains the ever unfolding, evolving and emerging beauty and goodness of that which is, was and ever shall be… and that I AM, eternally part of this.

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    Awake O my soul awake, and know that you are born of the earth
    (I call upon my ancestors for help)
    Awake O my soul awake to the river of light that runs through you
    (I call upon my angels for help)
    Awake O my soul awake to the sky above that contains you
    (I call upon my allies for help)
    Awake O my soul awake . . .
    I hear the pounding of my ancestors’ feet in the earth below me
    I detect the songs of the angels in the sunrise greeting me
    I feel the arms of my allies comforting me
    Here, God, is the sound of your voice . . . here . . . here

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    They are “totally disembodied” and “extremely arid, limited, and narrow.” They are lacking in love and joy.
    This describes the Supreme Court and the conservative movement. This describes patriarchal conservative religion. This is power and control and war. I can’t comment on angels but God’s reality, energy, and consciousness pervading the universe in mysterious in living and joyful ways I really love the perspective of angels and don’t argue with it and enjoy it. I am learning. Until we penetrate this disembodied fearful perspective with peace and joy that leads to compassion and justice we will be on this track of death.

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