QUESTION 52: OF THE ANGELS IN RELATION TO PLACE
We now inquire into the place of the angels. Touching this there are
three subjects of inquiry:
(1) Is the angel in a place?
(2) Can he be in several places at once?
(3) Can several angels be in the same place?
Article 1: Whether an angel is in a place?
Objection 1: It would seem that an angel is not in a place. For Boethius says
(De Hebdom.): "The common opinion of the learned is that things
incorporeal are not in a place." And again, Aristotle observes (Phys. iv,
text 48,57) that "it is not everything existing which is in a place, but
only a movable body." But an angel is not a body, as was shown above
(Question ). Therefore an angel is not in a place.
Objection 2: Further, place is a "quantity having position." But everything
which is in a place has some position. Now to have a position cannot
benefit an angel, since his substance is devoid of quantity, the proper
difference of which is to have a position. Therefore an angel is not in a
Objection 3: Further, to be in a place is to be measured and to be contained
by such place, as is evident from the Philosopher (Phys. iv, text
14,119). But an angel can neither be measured nor contained by a place,
because the container is more formal than the contained; as air with
regard to water (Phys. iv, text 35,49). Therefore an angel is not in a
On the contrary, It is said in the Collect [*Prayer at Compline,
Dominican Breviary]: "Let Thy holy angels who dwell herein, keep us in
I answer that, It is befitting an angel to be in a place; yet an angel
and a body are said to be in a place in quite a different sense. A body
is said to be in a place in such a way that it is applied to such place
according to the contact of dimensive quantity; but there is no such
quantity in the angels, for theirs is a virtual one. Consequently an
angel is said to be in a corporeal place by application of the angelic
power in any manner whatever to any place.
Accordingly there is no need for saying that an angel can be deemed
commensurate with a place, or that he occupies a space in the continuous;
for this is proper to a located body which is endowed with dimensive
quantity. In similar fashion it is not necessary on this account for the
angel to be contained by a place; because an incorporeal substance
virtually contains the thing with which it comes into contact, and is not
contained by it: for the soul is in the body as containing it, not as
contained by it. In the same way an angel is said to be in a place which
is corporeal, not as the thing contained, but as somehow containing it.
And hereby we have the answers to the objections.
Article 2: Whether an angel can be in several places at once?
Objection 1: It would seem that an angel can be in several places at once. For
an angel is not less endowed with power than the soul. But the soul is in
several places at once, for it is entirely in every part of the body, as
Augustine says (De Trin. vi). Therefore an angel can be in several places
Objection 2: Further, an angel is in the body which he assumes; and, since the
body which he assumes is continuous, it would appear that he is in every
part thereof. But according to the various parts there are various
places. Therefore the angel is at one time in various places.
Objection 3: Further, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii) that "where the angel
operates, there he is." But occasionally he operates in several places at
one time, as is evident from the angel destroying Sodom (Gn. 19:25).
Therefore an angel can be in several places at the one time.
On the contrary, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii) that "while the angels are in heaven, they are not on earth."
I answer that, An angel's power and nature are finite, whereas the
Divine power and essence, which is the universal cause of all things, is
infinite: consequently God through His power touches all things, and is
not merely present in some places, but is everywhere. Now since the
angel's power is finite, it does not extend to all things, but to one
determined thing. For whatever is compared with one power must be
compared therewith as one determined thing. Consequently since all being
is compared as one thing to God's universal power, so is one particular
being compared as one with the angelic power. Hence, since the angel is
in a place by the application of his power to the place, it follows that
he is not everywhere, nor in several places, but in only one place.
Some, however, have been deceived in this matter. For some who were
unable to go beyond the reach of their imaginations supposed the
indivisibility of the angel to be like that of a point; consequently they
thought that an angel could be only in a place which is a point. But they
were manifestly deceived, because a point is something indivisible, yet
having its situation; whereas the angel is indivisible, and beyond the
genus of quantity and situation. Consequently there is no occasion for
determining in his regard one indivisible place as to situation: any
place which is either divisible or indivisible, great or small suffices,
according as to his own free-will he applies his power to a great or to a
small body. So the entire body to which he is applied by his power,
corresponds as one place to him.
Neither, if any angel moves the heavens, is it necessary for him to be
everywhere. First of all, because his power is applied only to what is
first moved by him. Now there is one part of the heavens in which there
is movement first of all, namely, the part to the east: hence the
Philosopher (Phys. vii, text 84) attributes the power of the heavenly
mover to the part which is in the east. Secondly, because philosophers do
not hold that one separate substance moves all the spheres immediately.
Hence it need not be everywhere.
So, then, it is evident that to be in a place appertains quite
differently to a body, to an angel, and to God. For a body is in a place
in a circumscribed fashion, since it is measured by the place. An angel,
however, is not there in a circumscribed fashion, since he is not
measured by the place, but definitively, because he is in a place in such
a manner that he is not in another. But God is neither circumscriptively
nor definitively there, because He is everywhere.
From this we can easily gather an answer to the objections: because the
entire subject to which the angelic power is immediately applied, is
reputed as one place, even though it be continuous.
Article 3: Whether several angels can be at the same time in the same place?
Objection 1: It would seem that several angels can be at the same time in the
same place. For several bodies cannot be at the same time in the same
place, because they fill the place. But the angels do not fill a place,
because only a body fills a place, so that it be not empty, as appears
from the Philosopher (Phys. iv, text 52,58). Therefore several angels can
be in the one place.
Objection 2: Further, there is a greater difference between an angel and a
body than there is between two angels. But an angel and a body are at the
one time in the one place: because there is no place which is not filled
with a sensible body, as we find proved in Phys. iv, text. 58. Much more,
then, can two angels be in the same place.
Objection 3: Further, the soul is in every part of the body, according to
Augustine (De Trin. vi). But demons, although they do not obsess souls,
do obsess bodies occasionally; and thus the soul and the demon are at the
one time in the same place; and consequently for the same reason all
other spiritual substances.
On the contrary, There are not two souls in the same body. Therefore for
a like reason there are not two angels in the same place.
I answer that, There are not two angels in the same place. The reason of
this is because it is impossible for two complete causes to be the causes
immediately of one and the same thing. This is evident in every class of
causes: for there is one proximate form of one thing, and there is one
proximate mover, although there may be several remote movers. Nor can it
be objected that several individuals may row a boat, since no one of them
is a perfect mover, because no one man's strength is sufficient for
moving the boat; while all together are as one mover, in so far as their
united strengths all combine in producing the one movement. Hence, since
the angel is said to be in one place by the fact that his power touches
the place immediately by way of a perfect container, as was said (Article ),
there can be but one angel in one place.
Reply to Objection 1: Several angels are not hindered from being in the same
place because of their filling the place; but for another reason, as has
Reply to Objection 2: An angel and a body are not in a place in the same way;
hence the conclusion does not follow.
Reply to Objection 3: Not even a demon and a soul are compared to a body
according to the same relation of causality; since the soul is its form,
while the demon is not. Hence the inference does not follow.